This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge is smoking hot, all right. The instructions? To hot smoke pork or salmon. Last month I wined and brined a pork rib roast, so I decided to go fish this month. After all, who can resist a slab of succulent, smoky salmon? In our home it’s considered it’s own food group.
I made several filets, knowing that if I didn’t look out, the smoked salmon would be gobbled straight up before I could embellish or create a recipe with it. My strategy was to centrally place a finished piece in the refrigerator for sacrificial consumption – a decoy, if you will – while I stashed another couple of hunks in the crisper for later creative use.
First things first, the hot and smoking method is simpler than you may think. Methods abound using smokers, weber grills, woks, stovetop smokers. I have a weber kettle grill, which I’ve often used for smoking, so chose that method. The salmon should be brined first, which may be done in as little as an hour or over several days. The longer brine time results in salmon gravlax, which produces saltier, more flavorful results – perfect if you wish to enjoy the fish au natural. I didn’t want to wait, opting for a 2 hour brine, followed by air-drying and smoking the fish, all of which I accomplished within an entire day.
Fast forward a day, and, as expected, the decoy fish was quickly consumed. It’s been raining lately, and I have had a hankering for a creamy, smoky chowder. I make chowders all the time, and always include a smoky component – either in the form of smoked fish or bacon. In this rendition, the only fish I used for the chowder was the hot smoked salmon. The results were wickedly good.
Smoked Salmon Chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound russet or yukon potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups water
2 pounds hot smoked salmon, broken in chunks (or 1 pound smoked salmon + 1 pound uncooked salmon filet)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil and butter in a deep skillet or soup pot. Add onion, fennel and 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onion becomes translucent and the fennel softens, 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add potatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until potatoes are tender but not too soft, 15 minutes. Stir in salmon, cream and black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes.
Taste for salt – depending on how salty the salmon is, you may need more. Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley or chopped fennel sprigs.