The dishes we eat the most here are chilli con carne and lasagna. And pizza, of course. We made a fabulous lasagna with a delicious chilli con carne.
We have probably committed a mortal sin for an Italian, but this was by far the best lasagna we have ever put on the table. And we are pretty proud of that.
We make the chilli con carne with smoked pork cheeks. Forget the common cuts of meat, as the pork shoulder, but try the lesser-known parts, such as the cheeks. Pork cheeks are beautiful pieces of meat with a large amount of connective tissue. After a low and slow preparation, that connective tissue changes into delicious gelatin that gives the chilli con carne a richer taste.
The pork cheeks still need a little work before sprinkling them with the dry rub. There is a white membrane over the meat that you have to cut away. You stick a sharp and flexible filleting knife under the membrane and cut it away. It is a meticulous job because you want to keep as much meat as possible, but it is doable. Ask your butcher to do it if you don’t feel like it. He likes to do it for you.
After throwing a cherry wood block on the coals, we place the SloRoller in our Kamado Joe to smoke the pork belly. Pork cheeks are small, and they don’t need a lot of smoke to absorb enough smoke flavour. Cherry wood gives a mild taste and a beautiful reddish-brown colour.
After smoking for 2 hours, the pork cheeks have absorbed enough smoke, and the dry rub has formed a nice crust. That’s when you wrap the pork belly with a bit of stock. If you wrap too early, you will rinse the crust away with the stock.
After another two hours, the pork cheeks will be tender enough to pull apart. You pull them in the broth they lay in. While pulling, you can clearly see the pink smoke ring through almost the entire cheek. The smoke ring is a nice side effect of smoking, but not necessary for a smokey taste. That is often misunderstood.
A smoke ring is nothing more than a chemical reaction between nitric oxide and the myoglobin in the meat that gives it its pink colour. It does not affect the taste of the meat.
After we’ve made the chilli, we mix in the pork cheeks, including the stock they’ve been cooked in. Now you let it simmer for a while to give the gelatin a chance to soak into the chilli.
You make the lasagna just like regular lasagna. Start with a layer of chilli con carne. And then a layer of lasagna sheets. Keep stacking until the sheets or the chilli con carne are used up. Keep the lasagne a good centimetre under the edge of the oven dish because the lasagna will rise a bit during cooking.
Then you sprinkle a healthy layer of grated cheese over it, and it can go back into the barbecue.
We set our Kamado up for indirect cooking before building the lasagna. This time with the platesetters because the temperature goes a bit higher and the SloRoller only really works well with low and slow preparations. You leave the dish for half an hour to cook the lasagna sheets.
With some luck, you will be rewarded with a nice layer of cheese that has not only melted but has eventually started to char a bit. Not only does it look good, but it also tastes much better. Let the lasagna cool for a few minutes before removing it from the dish. The chance that the lasagna will remain upright is a lot greater.
This is our bbq chilli lasagna. The best lasagna we have ever made or eaten. Are you also going to make this chilli lasagna? Let us know in the comments below. Or better! Please take a photo and post it on Instagram. Tag @bbqhelden so we can see what you made.
- 1 kilo of pork cheeks
- 200 ml chicken stock
- Lasagna sheets
- Grated cheese (Mozarella and Grana Padano)
For the dry rub
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp dried coriander
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
For the chilli
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic pressed
- 70 grams of tomato puree
- 1 stalk celery finely chopped
- 400 grams of kidney beans
- 600 grams peeled tomatoes
- 300 grams of corn
- Remove the membranes from the pork cheek. Mix the ingredients for the dry rub and spread an even layer over the meat. Leave them like that while you light the barbecue.
- Provide for a barbecue with an indirect temperature of about 150ºC (302F) with a chunk of smoke wood. Place the pork cheeks on the grates and let them smoke for 2 hours until the dry rub has formed a crust.
- Place the smoked pork cheeks in an aluminium container or small oven dish and pour in the stock. Seal everything well with aluminium foil and put the tray back on the barbecue for 2 hours.
- Pierce the foil and the meat with a toothpick or your thermometer probe to check if the meat is tender enough. If that is the case, remove the tray from the barbecue and place a Dutch oven over direct heat.
- Add a little olive oil to the pan and immediately add the onion and garlic while the pan and oil heat up. When the onion becomes translucent, add the tomato puree and stir fry for a few minutes.
- Pull the pork cheeks apart with two forks. Throw the celery, beans, tomatoes and pork cheeks in the Dutch oven and let it all simmer for 15 minutes. Finally, add the corn and remove the pan from the heat.
- Build the lasagna by greasing a baking dish with a bit of butter. Start with a layer of chilli and cover with the lasagna sheets. Repeat this until one centimetre below the edge of the oven dish.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella over the lasagna and finish with grated grana padano.
- Put the baking dish back in the barbecue with an indirect temperature of about 200ºC (392F). Let it sit for half an hour until the lasagna sheets are cooked.