There are many, many reasons to love Fire Island Bakery. The croissants, for one. The fact that they’ve brought back the concept of a neighborhood bakery to Anchorage, for another. Then there’s the chocolate chip cookies. And the poppy seed onion rolls. Of course, the scones, muffins, cupcakes, and more.
But I recently found a new reason: Fire Island is now offering classes! Topics range from sourdough to viennoiserie, both of which sound interesting, but most intriguing was the “Hot Smoker” class taught by Carlyle.
Smoked meats are not a particularly large part of my diet, although smoked salmon is an Alaskan classic and I’ve sampled various mouthwatering morsels made by friends. However, my dad just received a smoker for his birthday so I think there will be a lot more smoked meat in my future. When I discovered the Fire Island class, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for him to learn from a pro…and for me to taste lots of yummy food!
The class was on a Monday evening at the bakery. We dashed over after work, not really knowing what to expect, but pretty sure it would be a flavorful, meaty experience. And it was.
The Hot Smoker class is three hours of paradise for carnivores. There were a lot of Ron Swanson-esque conversations about the attributes of different cuts of meat and the collective enjoyment* during bacon sampling was almost indecent (rightly so – best bacon EVER!). Other delicacies included smoked salmon (of course!), Carolina pulled pork, pastrami, smoked beets (ridiculously good!), and a coleslaw (the perfect tangy accompaniment to all the smokey flavors). Carlyle also served warm, crusty bread with a hard cheese and dried apricots – all of it was delicious.
One tip I loved was using whole cumin and coriander for the pastrami. Carlyle toasted each spice in a frying pan and then crushed it before massaging it into the meat. The way the scent of the spices changed during each stage was fascinating and added a burst of flavor. It made me want to learn more about different ways to work with spices instead of just grabbing a jar off the shelf. More work, of course, but well worth it.
The best thing about the class was the people. Everyone was excited to swap meat smoking stories, and most of them had recipes and tips of their own to share. Considering that I’m the kind of person who feels guilty if I so much as bonk a fish, it was a little startling when other attendees began rhapsodizing about breaking down suckling pigs right off the bat, but I quickly got used to it and only had to remind myself a couple of times that if I eat it, I should at least respect the process and at most be prepared to participate in the process.
Standing around the hot smoker with new friends and my dad was the perfect way to spend a random Monday night. I went home with a pleasantly full tummy, a baggy of leftovers for lunch, and my hair filled with the smell of smoke.
*I kept flashing to the Saturday Night Live sketch of the “Love-ahs” talking about spiced meats in a hot tub. This was both disturbing and hilarious.