Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fresh Wild Pacific Salmon....Smoke If You Got 'Em!

     Okay,  I know this is The Colors of Indian Cooking and usually  Indian food  is what you're  going to find around here, so then what is this big slab of smoked salmon doing on my blog? Well, it's all related to that CheeseFest I threw. Cheese is something I love, but not something I use in my cooking all that much since in the Indian kitchen cheese usually begins and ends with paneer or chenna, over and out. So I abandoned my familiar Indian recipes for a night and decided to get my Viking on, and I'm not talking about a premium price gas range... hell no. I'm talking about old school Vikings like these guys. Yeah, I watch that show... so what? Sorry, sorry,  that's just how I get after an episode of Vikings.

   I started out by planning on making Gravlax. A Finnish friend makes it for us fairly often. How hard can it be I thought. How hard is it be to turn fresh wild fish into a tasty snack? The Lady Vikings on Vikings do it all the time, why not me? What actually happened was  handling the raw fish, I more or less turned into this guy.

   Getting fresh fish was the easy part here in Sonoma, a gravlax recipe was easy to find, the worms were another thing. Worms? Yes, you heard me correctly. Worms, as in parasites, as in you don't want to ingest these under any circumstances. There I was with 2 pounds of crazy expensive fresh salmon getting ready to cure it and Mr. X who was at our house told me a story about a friend who'd eaten raw salmon and  nearly died. Thank you Mr. Buzzkill. There I was with a party planned in 48 hours, 18 people on the way and the specter of my guests writhing on the floor being consumed by worms dancing before my eyes.

   I needed a fast fix for this problem.

   The first thing I did was go to Lord Google, and dang, Mr. X wasn't messing with me. Nearly all wild-caught salmon carry parasites and worms. The government rules on how to overcome this in fresh ocean-caught fish, believe me you don't want to know. Let me just say, I didn't have a commercial grade freezer and a couple of weeks to spare. I visited a few cooking websites where Swedes claimed they'd been eating this stuff for years and "Ha! They laugh at worms!" but I just couldn't take the chance (in a little while you'll see why that was a wise choice.) I'd also read that farmed  salmon don't have the ocean parasite risk so those can be cold-cured safely, but of course farmed fish, that's a whole other shall we say, kettle of fish.

   So, the one alternative I was left with was breaking out my trusty smoker. I bought a couple of Camerons Smokers a few years ago. They're great, affordable, and work on a stove top or a grill top. The problem is I always forget I have them. I cook with my clay so much that a lot of the time I forget about the other equipment I have in my house. But now that I've rediscovered my smokers (I have 2 ) I've been working them. I started with cured smoked salmon. It's simple and easy to prepare, but it does take at least 24 hours of curing before smoking, so keep that in mind.

Smoked Salmon

Here's What You Need:

2 lbs of fresh salmon (teeny tiny pin bones removed)
1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1 Tbs crushed black peppercorns

Here's What To Do:

In a bowl mix together the sugars, salt and peppercorns. Set it aside.
Roll out a long piece of plastic wrap.
Wash your hands well.
Sprinkle 1/3 of the salt, sugar mixture on top of the plastic wrap.
Take your salmon and lay 1/2 of it out, skin side down on top of the salt and sugar mixture on top of the plastic wrap.
(If you have a vacuum sealer you don't need to do this, simply take the fish after you've applied the cure and place it in a vacuum sealer bag and vacuum  seal it.)

Run your (clean) hands over the fish and feel for tiny bones. These are the pin bones. When ever I clean fish, even if they've come to me already cleaned I go over them with a fine pair of boning tweezers. Okay, so they're just regular tweezers that I bought specially for this purpose but calling them boning tweezers makes it sound so much more official.

It can be a tedious process but better to take the time in the prep than having to give one of your guests the Heimlich maneuver.
Secondly, go worm hunting. Worms are killed by cooking, (parasites being invisible to the naked eye are not.)
I look for any tiny pinhole type marks, if I find one I go to work with my tweezers. Sure enough, I found a live worm.

This is not meant to gross anyone out, just to let you know that you should inspect and check fresh fish before cooking it.
Now that the fish is bone and worm free, sprinkle another 1/3 of the salt sugar pepper mixture onto the flesh side of one side of the salmon.
Rub it in well.

Put the second piece of salmon flesh side down on top of the other piece of salmon.

Rub the rest of the sugar and salt mixture into the skin side of the top piece of salmon.
If you're using plastic wrap, wrap the fish as tightly as you can in the plastic. You want it snug as a ...well, as a salmon in plastic wrap.
Place the plastic wrapped fish in a shallow pan or dish to catch the juices that are going to be draining out during the next 24 hours.
If you're using  a vacuum sealer place the salt and sugar covered fish in a vacuum bag and seal it tight.Vacuum sealing, you don't need to put the bag in a pan or bowl.

Put a phone book, or any heavy object on top of the fish. I used plastic wrapped bricks to weigh my salmon down.

Put your heavy object on your fish and let it sit in the fridge for 12 hours.
Turn your fish over, and weight it down for another 12 hours.
Take the fish out of the plastic wrap, unwrap it and rinse it in cold running water.

Pat it dry gently.

Place the salmon on a rack in a cool dry place (not the fridge) for 1 to 3 hours.
What this does is allow the pellicle to form on the fish. This is a dry tacky membrane that allows the smoke flavor to stick to the meat/fish and cure it.

Smoking The Fish:

I used  a Cameron stove-top smoker. Here's what I did.
Place 2 Tbs of alder wood chips in the bottom of the smoker.

Put a foil covered drip pan on top of the wood chips
Brush a grilling rack with olive oil and place the fish  pieces skin side down on top of it.
Smoke the fish until the thickest part registers about 150 degrees. This takes about 25 minutes in a medium heat. Check the fish with a meat thermometer after about 15 minutes or so. When it's at 150 degrees, it's done.

You can serve it hot or let it cool to room temperature, wrap it tightly in foil and store it in the fridge to be served later.
I made this the night before the party but it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

   So there it is, great smoked salmon first time out of the box. I served it with a sour cream dill sauce and some thinly sliced dark pumpernickel bread. My smoker, which I've now rediscovered, has become one of my new favorite kitchen tools especially for large gatherings and any take along events. Smoked fish, meats and vegetables are great for salads, sandwiches and tail gate parties.

   Coming up next more fast and easy Summer party favorites. Follow along @kathygori


  1. That's some perfect looking fish...never thought about worms!

    1. Thanks! Yes, worms unfortunately are a problem to consider

  2. I never thought of the worms, either! Then again, I have yet to attempt my own smoked salmon or gravlax. But the next time I prepare salmon, I will definitely be on the lookout. This looks amazing!

    1. tweezers are a fish cooks best friend!!

  3. Buy Youtube CommentsJuly 30, 2013 at 3:39 AM

    I Love this fish so delicious.Thanks for sharing this post.
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  4. Actually it take me few time to guess what it is later i come to know that actually it a salmon, thanks for sharing.

  5. Wow looking these pictures make me feel so hungry. Maybe cook this dish tonight is not a bad idea. Thank you for the details post!

  6. Can't wait to try this on my pellet smoker!! I'm in Minnesota so 40 in the winter would be quite warm! lol

  7. Very detail, thanks for sharing this information.

  8. Wow~ This recipe is fantastic. Look like the lunch time is coming and you make me feel so hungry. I definitely will make it for dinner.

  9. That's some perfect looking fish. My kids will love it so much. I will try the best. Now I can change my menu regularly for my family, esp. for my kids. Thank you :)

  10. These look delicious! My kids will love these so much. I will try the best. Now I can change my menu regularly for my family, esp. for my kids. Thank you :)

  11. I have been learning recipes with fish and this smoked salmon should be one in my collectors. Thanks for sharing.

  12. So detailed and it looks delicious. I've save your guide and will try to make my own salmon. Thank you so much for sharing this awesome post!

  13. Oh great. I gotta try this recipe this weekend. My kids love it so much. Thank for sharing!

  14. Great recipe and great writing as well, really balancing the funny and the serious ! Thanks for sharing and post more !



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