There is something primeval about cooking meat over fire. I don't care how much I have read about it being a pretty old invention/revelation to humankind, its still amazing. Smoke is such a magical substance, turning ordinary things into complex textures and flavors. Perhaps it was my childhood spent cooking on an indoor, electric JenAir grill, but ever since I learned about charcoal grills, well my who perception of a cook out, has been changed.
I have a friend who won a Brinkmann smoker, his is in red. Last night I went over and we used it for the first time. We smoked bone-in chicken thighs with maple wood and cacao hulls (the leftovers from winnowing roasted cocoa beans). I was skeptical, really worried that the cacao would impart a bitter/burnt flavor, but it was not the case at all. The chicken came out beautifully! A dark, crisp mahogany color with a crisp skin - the excess fat was rendered off, and kept the chicken moist.
The joy of our success made us (ok me) a little smoke happy, which lead to us attempting to smoke raw potato slices and a quartered pear. The potatoes tasted leathery and uncooked, but the pear was warm, smokey and delicious. (We all agreed that perhaps cooking the potato first, then smoking it, was the way to go.
Needless to say, my jacket smells like a campfire and I am riddled with ideas for Thanksgiving!