Tuesday, July 29, 2008


After prepping meats and fish for the restaurant, we began cold smoking our salmon and trout that cured for a few days. Cold smoking adds a subtle smoky flavor and gives an appealing presentation. Chef Janet has been teaching us about cold and hot smoking techniques and the process is not something I would recommend doing at home unless you want firemen crashing through your door.

Chef brought us hickory wood chips and untreated coals. We placed the black coals on a gas burner to heat them up until they were ashy in color. In a cold oven we placed the salmon and trout on racks in sheet trays on the top level of the oven. In the middle level we put down a layer of ice on a sheet pan to act as a buffer to the smoking embers. On the floor of the oven we placed an aluminum container filled with smoldering coals and hickory chips. As the smoke arose it was chilled by the icy tray and then bloomed over the trays of fish.

Chef Janet explained why we would cold smoke instead of hot smoke the fish. In the case of the salmon hot smoking would “cook” the fish and change its texture. The trout on the other hand was cold smoked for the flavor and then it finished cooking in a low oven.

Once the salmon emerged from the smoking oven (mind you we had to reheat the coals half a dozen time to keep the smoke going) we sliced the fish on a bias to obtain long paper-thin slices to enjoy. The smoke imparted a rich flavor and our dry cure gave the salmon a firmer texture by withdrawing all of the moisture out of the fish thus preserving it.

The trout on the other hand was saved to use for the next buffet where it was a big hit and flew off the serving platter. I made a sauce with fresh dill, crème fraîche and freshly grated horseradish to give it a little kick. The creamy dill sauce pared extremely well with the tender smoked white fish.

As I think back to our smoking experience, I am reminded of the amazing scent of hickory wood filling the kitchen – it reminded me of the cozy warmth of a winter fireplace even though it was 90 degrees outside.

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