My photo
Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

Search This Blog

Monday, January 9, 2012

Smoking Your Own Fish And Smoked Whitefish Spread

The alluring aroma of hickory smoke curled around my neighborhood last week prompting my neighbors to track down the source and to let me know me that they LOVE smoked fish. Santa brought me a Brickman smoker/roaster/steamer/grill for Christmas and I had my first two forays into the world of smoking. The Brickman has a fire pan at the bottom for the coals and aromatic hardwood, a water pan in the middle that can be filled with beer or herb infused water, and two grills--one directly above the water pan for a steaming and one at the top for conventional smoking. Doesn't their description sound tempting? "Here's how it works: 
The liquid in the pan absorbs the heat from the firs pan. This keeps cooking heat low, moist and even. The water reaches simmering temperatures and steams slightly. The simmering water evaporates and combines with smoke from aromatic woods smoldering in the fire pan. This fragrant moisture condenses on the food, then drips into the liquid pan. As the cycle is repeated, the moisture becomes more deliciously flavored with wood tenderness." Yes, it does!

I found fatwood starters and oak charcoal at Ralph's without any chemicals (I hate the aroma of starter fluid) and used the hickory chunks that came with the smoker. I wrapped both the fire and water pans with aluminum foil and put a sheet under the smoker to catch any ash that came out of the vent hole on the bottom. Clean up was a snap. I tried different sizes of fish--the smallest ones (size of a kebob chunk) were nearly as dry as jerky and the larger fillet pieces had plenty of surface area to capture the smoky flavor, but enough thickness to be moist. I would say 2" would be the thinnest one would want a piece to be, unless you're looking for jerky.

The helpful seafood monger at Whole Foods sold me salmon and whitefish and recommended 1 cup rock salt: 1 cup brown sugar: 1 quart water as a 24 hour brine for the fish. Unfortunately, the first batch made this way way to salty, so I used the whitefish in the spread recipe below. The cream cheese and sour cream diluted the saltiness so the spread was delicious with a French baguette at a recent winetasting of Pinot Noir at work.

The second day, I made my own brine with 1/4 cup rock salt: 1/4 cup brown sugar: 1/4 cup maple syrup: 1 tsp. fresh thyme and brined the fish for about 2 hours. We tried it at the same Pinot Noir tasting--the fish was excellent, but perhaps the smoky flavor a bit overwhelming for the more delicate Pinots.

A note: marinated fish and meat need to sit out in the air after being removed from the brine or marinade. When the air can contact all sides, it dries out the surface and develops a pellicule which is a thin layer of tackiness that the smoke adheres to--I simply placed the fish on a rack for half an hour. In the same smoking, I smoked a pork loin marinaded in red chile sauce that was devoured by my carnivorous family. Next time: smoked oysters and smoked chuckwagon beans!

8 ounces whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 pound. smoked whitefish, skinned, boned and flaked
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon. horseradish

With a spatula, combine cream cheese and sour cream in a mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in the fish and favorings, then spoon into a serving dish. Refrigerate for an hour or longer, serve with sliced bread or crackers. Makes about 2 cups of spread. Pair with a strong Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay.

No comments:

Post a Comment