Adding smoke to any kind of food makes it better. While meat obviously benefits from this traditional seasoning, veggies and even fruit can benefit even more from the deep flavor of smoke as well. So it's not surprising that Ducks Eatery-- a smokehouse and bar in New York City-- would add smoke to foods you don't generally see served as "smoked." The one smoked food they tried, though, has turned out to be a stretch for some people.
At first glance, the dish looks like a ham. It's crackly, scored, and round, and when you slice into it, it's red and juicy. But the marvel of this tasty looking dish is that it isn't meat at all-- it's a smoked watermelon.
Chef and restaurateur Will Horowitz brined a whole watermelon and smoked it for eight hours, then posted the results on the restaurant's Instagram. The creative meal was even featured on The Guardian, in a hilarious post about creating "the anti-melon."
The reaction on social media has varied, with some excitement for a great vegan BBQ alternative and others a little disturbed by the fake ham look.
Instagramer Jeremy Jacobowitz from Brunch Boys tried the faux-roast smoked watermelon and said that the dish is "an acid trip for your taste buds." In another description, Takana Farms says, "It was definitely interesting!"
Food Insider visited the restaurant and posted a video with Horowitz walking through the process of smoked watermelon. It takes four to six days to prepare and starts with slicing the rind of the watermelon off than letting it sit in a flavorful brine mixed with coriander, oregano, Kosher salt, and oakwood ash. Black pepper is added for a bit of a kick, then after brining the melon in deliciousness for four days, it's dried and smoked for half a day.
When the watermelon "ham" is pulled out of the smoker, the outside of the fruit actually looks like the skin on a ham. To give the exterior that caramelized crisp, Horowitz scores the "skin" and bastes the smoked watermelon in olive oil, rosemary, and the watermelon juice. A little flame turns the liquid into the meaty-looking crunch on the exterior.
The taste is unlike ham or fresh watermelon, according to tasters. It's sweet, salty, and smoky, and definitely, a must try.
It's not the first smoked melon Horowitz has added to the Ducks Eatery menu. There's a smoked cantaloupe burger that takes a square of thick smoked melon and adds caramelized onion, hot ranch, lettuce, and sesame for an amazing-sounding beef alternative.
This post was originally published on August 24, 2018.