Tag Archives: whiskey

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.

Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour

20 May

While I would not classify myself as a collector of cookbooks, it cannot be denied that at least one of our dining room bookshelves has been noted to contain more cookbooks than books of a non-recipe variety.  Most of these cookbooks have been procured during the years that my husband and I have been married, with a few notable exceptions.  I brought into our marriage a half dozen or so vegetarian cookbooks and a couple of copies of Joy of Cooking, and my husband entered our union with this:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that, were there points awarded for most useful and interesting books brought into a dual partnership agreement, the tally of points at the end of the inaugural round would look something like this:

Me: 15 points

Husband: 1,000,000 points

This book is, in short, fantastic.  In addition to containing nearly 800 classic cocktail recipes, the book also contains a hefty 100 or so pages dedicated to the history, lore, and usage of different liquors, wines, beers, and accompaniments, and how those different items can be used to complement one another (totally useful). There is also an added hors d’oeuvres chapter, which includes separate sections on both caviar and foie gras (slightly less useful, but still appreciated).

Best of all, this book, written by Playboy’s longtime food and drink editor and culled from previously published articles dating back as far as 1955 (the book’s original publication date is 1971), reads like an instruction manual for those looking for tips on how to be a consummately urbane gentleman of the world—five decades ago.  You enjoy vodka and clear turtle consommé.  You serve daiquiris on your cabin cruiser, and precise and masterly cocktails at your June bachelor dinner.  You are a man of all seasons.  Not a conspicuous fusspot, the book clarifies, but a man of refined tastes.

Admittedly, not everyone will enjoy this book as much as I do, especially if one is offended by references to Canadian whiskeys having a strong appeal for the distaff side (it’s sweet and soft, you know, for the ladies), or is annoyed by a drink being classified as perfect “for unwinding after 18 holes on the fairway.”  While it’s true that those statements are mildly obnoxious, I have no problem reading past them.  Then again, any book that cautions a fellow against drinking for quantity rather than quality, and also takes the time to distinguish a drink as being a “postprandial” fit, is always going to be a winner by me.

Earlier this week, when the temperature hit 70 degrees for only the fourth time this year, I, fortified with knowledge about the mature American drinking man, and in possession of some dashing and petite Meyer lemons, decided to unearth the cocktail shaker and take my first step towards entering the “method school for the modern man at his drinking cabinet.”

Not surprisingly, my education started with me completely blowing the recipe apart.  Not having blended whiskey or the required number of lemons, I improvised a bit.  When I found a nearly empty bag of frozen sour cherries in the freezer, there was no way I couldn’t include them.  The more ridiculous things I did to the standard cocktail, the more delicious it looked.  And, in the end, it was a delicious drink, though not exactly what I think Mr. Thomas Mario had in mind.

Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour

Inspired by Playboy’s Host and Bar Book

I am not a huge fan of sweet drinks, so my version of this drink is on the tart side.  If you wish to make a sweeter drink, increase the amount of sugar as directed.  Alternately, I’ll bet that if you used all Meyer lemon juice, as opposed to the half-lemon-half-lime combination that I used, you’d end up with a drink that is much less tart (Meyer lemons are not nearly as sour as their standard lemon counterparts).  If you do this, dial back the sugar initially and see if your all Meyer lemon juice drink is sweet enough.  If it’s lacking the sweetness you desire, go ahead and add a bit more sugar, ¼ teaspoon at a time, then re-shake and re-taste until you find the drink acceptable.

1 large or 2 small Meyer lemons

1 lime

½ to 1 teaspoon sugar

3 sour cherries, fresh or frozen

2 ounces whiskey


Juice your Meyer lemons and lime until you have a combination of ¾ ounces of freshly squeezed juice.  Combine juice, one half of an already squeezed Meyer lemon, your desired amount of sugar, and 2 sour cherries in a cocktail shaker.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle the citrus, sugar, and cherry mixture for roughly 10 seconds, until the sugar has been pulverized into the other ingredients.  Add whiskey and a handful of ice to the shaker, cover, and shake vigorously.  Taste to adjust sweetness.  For a less tart drink, add more sugar, re-shake, and taste again.

Strain into a short glass filled with ice.  Garnish with 1 sour cherry.

Makes 1 drink.

%d bloggers like this: