Saturday, September 03, 2011

Simple smoked salmon spread

Even though the temperature is still in the 90's and the humidity envelopes me like a hot wet blanket, September means cool weather is around the corner. While working as a fishmonger in college I learned that most salmon spawn in the Fall. What better way to combine the promise of Fall with the reality of the heat and make a delicious cold smoked salmon spread?

Smoked Salmon Spread

  • 1.5 lb fresh Pacific salmon fillet
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 small to medium shallot
  • 2t salt, more for seasoning
  • 2t sugar
  • 1T capers
  • cooking oil, enough to coat the bottom of a saute pan
  • 1T unsalted butter
  • Microplane grater
  • 4 quart mixing bowl
  • small bowl, approximately 1C
  • wooden spoon
  • saute pan
  • Cameron's Cookware stovetop smoker*
  • Peel the shallot and cut into a fine dice. Split the shallots into two piles of roughly 1/4 and 3/4.
  • Use the Microplane to zest half the lemon into the mixing bowl.
  • Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the zested half into the mixing bowl, being careful to keep the seeds out. Reserve the other half of the lemon.
  • Add 1/4 of the shallots, sour cream, salt and sugar to the mixing bowl with the lemon and stir to combine. Set aside.
  • Set up the smoker with 1T wood chips over medium-low to medium heat. I use apple, cherry, alder, or pecan. Don't use mesquite, hickory or oak, the flavor is too heavy for salmon.
  • While the smoker is heating up rinse the salmon under cold running water, pat dry, and sprinkle lightly with salt.**
  • When the first wisps of smoke come out of the smoker spray the rack with nonstick spray, place the salmon on the smoker rack skin side down, and close the smoker.
  • Set a timer for 18 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in the saute pan over medium heat.
  • When the oil ripples add the butter and swirl it around the pan while it melts.
  • Add the remainder of the shallot and saute until golden brown. Be very careful, it won't look like anything is happening then they will go from golden brown and delicious to burned and bitter very quickly.
  • Pour the shallots and any oil into a small bowl and set aside.
  • When the timer goes off turn off the heat and open the smoker slightly. Let stand for a few minutes, then open the lid fully and remove the salmon. Place the salmon flesh side down on a cutting board and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Peel the skin off the salmon and scrape off the grayish-brown layer that separates the muscle and skin. A spoon works well for this. Be gentle so you don't scrape up too much of the salmon flesh. Let the salmon cool for another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the salmon and the sauteed shallots to the sour cream mixture in the mixing bowl and break up the salmon with your spoon. Stir vigorously, breaking up large chunks, until the salmon and sour cream mixture are fully incorporated.
  • Add the capers and stir gently. You don't want to crush the capers.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Check for seasoning, adding more salt or lemon if needed.
Yield: 20 to 30 cocktail party servings

* You could use an outdoor smoker, but since I don't have one I'm providing instructions for a Camerons Cookware stovetop smoker. This is an easy way to get smoky delicious food in the convenience of your kitchen. Note that it does leak some smoke, so if you're in an apartment or a small house you might want to open a window. If it billows like a locomotive it means you have the heat too high.

**Another variation would be to grill the salmon instead of smoking it. The last option I'll leave you with is to bake the salmon, and for smoky flavor you could add a sprinkle of smoked sea salt. The recipe will work no matter how you cook the salmon.

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