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paula disbrowe grilling wings

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

Paula Disbrowe grills chicken wings at her home in Austin on Wednesday April 11, 2018.


Paula Disbrowe's new cookbook reminds us that where there's smoke, there's good eats

It's only been a year since Paula Disbrowe's "Any Night Grilling" cookbook came out, but she's back with another twist on cooking over fire.

Her newest book, which comes out today, March 26, is called "Thank You for Smoking: Fun and Fearless Recipes Cooked with a Whiff of Wood Fire on Your Grill or Smoker" (Ten Speed Press, $30), and rather than showing you how to smoke big cuts of meat, which is what most smoking books cover, Disbrowe shows you how to smoke (and use) oats, nuts, olives, fruit, vegetables, chiles and even legumes.

Read on for one such recipe, a smoked bean dip, that will be right at home next to grilled chicken or pork chops.

Smoked Bean Dip with Pickled Jalapeños
Inspired by the canned variety sold by Frito-Lay (a guilty pleasure, I confess), this homemade version of an iconic Tex-Mex bean dip is way more delicious (without the dubious ingredients). I'd always soaked dried beans before cooking them until a couple friends (and accomplished bean cookers) convinced me to skip this step. Now I simply rinse beans and cook them on the stovetop at a very low simmer, the result is a deeper "bean" flavor and perfectly tender, creamy texture. Adding meat to the bean cooking liquid isn't essential here, but it creates a richer stock and the added fat creates a luscious texture. I like to simmer pintos with a fresh turkey neck, but you could also use chicken necks, bacon, a ham hock, or a smoked wing or two. Stock up on corn chips and cold beer regardless — even a vegetarian version of this dip will please a crowd with its smoky bean-and-briny-jalapeño essence. You won't need all the beans for this dip. Serve the brothy, smoky leftovers in flour tortillas or alongside crispy fried eggs.

Serves: 4 to 8

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 white onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
2 or 3 fresh bay leaves 
1 turkey neck, 3 or 4 chicken necks, 3 slices thick-cut bacon, a ham hock, or 2 smoked chicken wings (optional) 
1 large pickled jalapeño chile, stemmed and sliced, plus more for garnish 
1 teaspoon jalapeño brine, plus more as desired 
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Crystal, plus more as desired 
1 teaspoon pure ground chile powder, such as New Mexico or ancho
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/4 teaspoon onion powder 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne 
Corn chips, for serving 

To smoke the beans: Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high.

When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, use tongs to remove the cooking grate and place a drip pan with 1 inch of warm water on the side with no coals, and add your smoke source (chips, chunks, or log). Return the cooking grate to its position, allow it to heat and then carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

Place the beans in a disposable aluminum pan or atop two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil (crimp the edges of foil upward to create a rim and prevent them from sliding off). When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the pan over indirect heat, close the grill, vent the grill for smoking, and smoke for 25 to 40 minutes, until the beans are deeply fragrant and have darkened slightly. For even results, stir the beans and rotate the pan around the heat after 15 to 20 minutes and keep an eye on their color after 30 minutes to ensure they don't become too dark. 

To make the bean dip: Place the dried beans in a large pot and rinse them a couple times with cold water. Drain the beans in in a colander and then return them to the pot with the onion, garlic, bay leaves (to taste) and turkey neck in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by 5 to 6 inches. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the beans are creamy and tender, about 1 hour, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. If time allows, let the beans cool in their broth (this slow cooling process creates an especially creamy texture). Drain the beans in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Discard any meat and the bay leaves.

Ladle 3 cups of the cooked beans and the 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid into a food processor. Add the jalapeño slices and brine, the hot sauce, chile powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne and blend until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more jalapeño brine or hot sauce as desired. Serve the dip either warm or chilled — it's good either way — with the chips and beer.

From "Thank You for Smoking: Fun and Fearless Recipes Cooked with a Whiff of Wood Fire on Your Grill or Smoker" by Paula Disbrowe (Ten Speed Press, $30)

Addie Broyles writes about food for the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at abroyles@statesman.com, or follow her on Twitter at @broylesa.

Photo (bean dip): Contributed by Johnny Autry