|Hot Smoked Salmon Satisfies Cravings
SUFFERING FROM an anticipated case of California wild salmon withdrawal, I recently found myself drawn to the display of hot smoked salmon at my local market.
The ingredients on the package listed wild king salmon (it didn't specify, but I suspect it is Alaskan), salt, brown sugar and natural wood smoke. It sounded good, so I thought to myself, "Why not give it a try?" But before I hit the kitchen, I did what I always do before I cook a food I'm not thoroughly familiar with — I hit my reference books.
Since first moving West, about a decade ago, Jay Harlow's cookbook "West Coast Seafood" has been a reliable reference and kitchen companion. Once again the book came through with all that I needed to know.
Along with thorough instructions for how to hot smoke fresh salmon (instructions we won't need this season), Jay gives a concise but thorough tutorial on the differences between cold smoked and hot smoked salmon.
"Hot smoked salmon," he explains, is accomplished when "the temperature inside the smoking chamber is high enough (therefore hot enough) to fully cook the fish." In comparison, cold smoking, which produces the moist, delicate texture of delicatessen lox, requires maintaining a temperature of 60 degrees to 110 degrees for many hours, something that is practical only on the large scale of commercial smokehouses. He goes on to say that in salmon country, cold smoking fish is a time-honored tradition using old refrigerators or improvised smokers. My solution — to purchase salmon already hot smoked — suits me just fine. I like the convenience of the vacuum package, assuring a moist, flavorful smokiness every time.
For the first recipe, I toss flakes of the hot smoked fish into warm potato salad and add a generous drizzle of olive oil and the juice of a Meyer lemon. Then I toss in chunks of hard-cooked eggs, red onion and capers. It was good.
Next day I went back to the store for more. Half of this batch I add to a steaming bowl of penne tossed with diagonal slices of cooked asparagus and hot olive oil seasoned with grated fresh garlic. Because I didn't need the entire package for the pasta, the remaining was mashed into a hard-cooked egg yolk, along with a little sour cream, destined for stuffed eggs. On a roll, I beat some flaked hot smoked salmon into cream cheese with some minced green onions and served it as a stuffing for celery.
Next, I plan to replace the tuna in a Nicoise-style salad with hot smoked salmon.
Meanwhile, we were invited to friends for dinner the other night. And what did they serve with glasses of sparkling wine? Chunks of hot smoked salmon on thin slices of baguette. Yes, we'll miss our local salmon, but I think the hot smoked kind will keep us very well fed indeed.