Tag Archives: smoked salmon

Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps

27 Dec

It’s been a literal number of years since my husband and I have done anything at all to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  The last time we agreed to venture out on that particular evening, we were holed up at the house of some people we knew, constantly checking the clock to see how much time had passed since we got there, and if it would be terribly rude for us to bid a hasty retreat, let’s see…right now.

It’s not that we are averse to spending time with other people, and it’s not as though we hold any particular grudge against New Year’s Eve as a concept, but it’s just that, in a celebratory sense, I think New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays that sets people up to feel disappointed.  Much like Valentine’s Day, the only holiday I think should be actually stricken from existence (seriously—kids not getting Valentine’s Day cards, people thinking their significant other is duty-bound to shower them with trinkets, the horrible, terrible movies—intentionally or not, it’s just designed to make people feel bad about themselves), there seems to be an unnaturally high amount of expectation surrounding New Year’s Eve.  As the calendar year begins anew, people are led to believe that so go their lives, their opportunities, and their accomplishments.

It is understandable that some people may find it helpful to assign a specific day as the starting point for their goals, but why resign yourself to thinking that there is only one day a year that allows you to make decisions regarding how you’d like your life to change?  If you’re going to develop resolve to become a more invested parent, why wait until a particular day to begin that challenge?  If you want to become more involved in charity work, it seems wise to start offering your time sooner rather than later.  Do you want to save more money?  Start now.  Go back to school?  Okay, so you’ll have to wait until the start of a new term, but, still, if you want to go back to school, go back to school.

My feelings about certain foods fall very much in line with my feelings about holidays that are meant to boss people around.  I know that Thanksgiving is the holiday of eating turkey and giving thanks, but, really, can’t I have turkey and feel thankful year round?  I think I can.  And, being as though I hold a particularly strong affection for what my husband refers to as “little bites” (tiny sandwiches, tiny cookies, tiny pies, cracker bites, you get the idea), I think that, cocktail/holiday/New Year’s Eve party be damned, if I want to eat canapés for dinner and ponder the myriad of ways I’d like to help make the world a better place for my son, his son (or daughter) and all those who come before and after, I should go ahead and do so whenever I please.

So here’s to the start of not just a new year, but a new way of thinking about the new year and what it means.  Your new year can start any time you want it to.  And your dinner of smoked salmon on crisp discs of olive oil roasted potatoes, joined by a creamy dill spread that’s topped with an absolutely heavenly relish of shallots and rice vinegar?  Yeah, that can start at any time.

Smoked Salmon Canapés on Potato Crisps

Potato Crisps

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, which generally works out to 2 large potatoes

4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Shallot Relish

¼ cup finely chopped shallots

heaping ¼ teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Creamy Dill Spread

2 tablespoons cream cheese

3 tablespoons sour cream or crème freche

½ teaspoon dried dill

pinch of salt

Plus:

8 ounces smoked salmon (you can make your own!)

To make the potato crisps, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Move one oven rack to the upper third position, and one rack to the lower third.

Slice potatoes into ¼-inch rounds.  You can use a mandoline slicer to do this, but I find that a very sharp knife works just fine.  Divide the olive oil between two baking sheets, drizzling the oil over as much of the surface as possible.  Arrange the potato slices on the oil baking sheets, turning the potato slices over and moving them along the surface of the baking sheet to make sure each slice is well oiled on each side.  Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper.  Bake the potato slices for 25 minutes, flipping each potato slice halfway through, and also swapping the positions of the baking sheets (so the bottom one is now on top, and vice versa).

When the edges of the potatoes are crisp, browned, and sizzling, remove the potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool.

To make the shallot relish, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, mix thoroughly, then set aside for at least 15 minutes.

To make the dill spread, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, and mix thoroughly.

To assemble a canapé, place a small amount of dill spread on top of a cooled potato crisp.  Top the dill spread with a small dollop of shallot relish.  Place a chunk of smoked salmon on top of the relish.

Makes about 24 canapés.

How to Make Smoked Salmon at Home

16 Jun

Meat and I, we have a complicated relationship.  The enjoyment I derive from testing out new meat-centric recipes and learning about various techniques and processes in regard to cooking meat tends to oftentimes far outweigh any desire I might have to actually eat what I am making.  Last winter I had a great time braising short ribs for four hours in a red wine and balsamic reduction, but when it came to actually eating the short ribs, I have to admit that I was decidedly lacking in enthusiasm.  Slow roasting a salt-crusted pork tenderloin on the grill is a fascinating operation, so long as I will not be made to actually eat the pork when I am done fussing with it.  Meats get stuffed, marinated, and rolled, and then I foist them on my husband.  Not that he minds.  More realistically, I do not foist them upon him so much as I generously heap them upon his willing plate.

This trend, however, might have just come to an end.  Please, everyone, let me introduce you all to my new best friend: whiskey soaked applewood smoked salmon.

First of all, allow me to admit that, up until last year, I was not aware of the fact that making smoked salmon at home was even a possibility.  I thought that smoking meats involved special canisters or barrels, or perhaps some sort of high-tech equipment that only very dedicated meat-eating people knew how to find.  Not surprisingly, I was dead wrong.  To smoke salmon at home, you need little more than an outdoor grill, some wood chips, salt, and sugar.  That’s it.

If you want to get a little fancier, you can briefly marinate your salmon in a bit of whiskey or bourbon, like we did here, or perhaps a bit of rum, if you’d prefer your salmon to be a bit sweeter.  No matter which you choose, after 4 hours of curing the salmon to draw out the liquid, it takes only 20 short minutes to smoke this salmon to a delicious and robust finish.

You can eat this smoked salmon on a salad, you can pile it on top of a bagel, or you can flake it into some pasta.  There is no wrong way to eat this, and the only known way to stop enjoying it is to eat it until it is gone.  You might want to immediately make more, but that’s all right.  If nothing else, you can just use my excuse, and tell people that you are making up for meats long ago left unenjoyed.

Whiskey Soaked Applewood Smoked Salmon

Adapted only slightly from Steven Raichlen’s How to Grill

1 salmon fillet, about 1 pound

½ cup whiskey, bourbon, or rum

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup coarse salt*

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 cups wood chips, soaked in cold water for 1 hour, then drained (Raichlen recommends using alder wood chips, but we used apple wood because we had easy access to it, courtesy of a recently-felled apple tree and, man, don’t we sound all self sufficient and rustic right now?)

Skin the salmon fillet and remove any bones.  Rinse the salmon under cold running water, then blot dry.  Place the salmon in a baking dish just large enough to hold it, and pour the whiskey, bourbon, or rum over it.  Allow to marinate for 15 minutes, then drain the salmon and blot dry once more.  Wipe out the baking dish.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and mix well with your fingers.  Spread 1/3 of the mixture over the bottom of the baking dish.  Lay the salmon on top of the mixture, skinned-side down.  Cover salmon with remaining 2/3 of brown sugar mixture, patting it onto the fish with your fingertips.  Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and allow to cure in the refrigerator for 4 hours.  The salt in the cure will draw out the moisture in the salmon.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling.  If you have a two burner gas grill, this will mean setting one burner on medium high heat and leaving the other burner off.  If you have a three burner gas grill, it will mean setting the two outermost burners on medium high heat and leaving the middle burner off.  If you have a charcoal grill, you will be raking your hot coals into two piles on opposite sides of the grill, leaving an empty space in between.  After preparing whichever grill you have, place a drip pan in the portion of the grill that is not lit or covered with hot coals.

Thoroughly rinse the brown sugar mixture off of the salmon with cold running water, then blot dry once more.  Discard liquid that has been extracted from the salmon.

Toss the pre-soaked wood chips onto hot coals (if using a charcoal grill), or, if using a gas grill, place wood chips in a smoker box made specifically for gas grills (such as this one), or wrap your wood chips in a tight pouch of aluminum foil with holes punched in the top (as demonstrated here), then place the box or pouch of wood chips under the grill grate, directly on top of a burner.

Brush and oil grill grate.  Place the salmon in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan that has been placed away from the heat.  Completely close the lid of the grill.  Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  To test for doneness, press the top of the salmon with your finger and test for firmness.  The salmon should feel firm and break into clean flakes.

Cool the salmon, then wrap it in aluminum foil and refrigerate until cold.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Tightly wrapped, the smoked salmon will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

*A note about coarse salt:  Coarse salt, which is often found in the form of kosher salt, comes in varying degrees of saltiness.  The two most widely found brands of kosher salt, Morton and Diamond, are no exception.  Morton kosher salt is known for being exceedingly salty, while Diamond kosher salt is decidedly less salty.  If using Diamond kosher salt, I recommend you go ahead and use the full amount of salt called for.  If you are using Morton kosher salt, reduce the amount of salt by one heaping tablespoon, then proceed with the recipe as usual.

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