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Cook-Off 59: Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish

Cookoff Charcuterie

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#91 Belgian Blue

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:08 AM


I admit to being curious about the oil in the recipe.
What role does oil have in the cure please?

On the previous part of the post about dry curing salmon (not brining), can anyone tell me how long they freeze the salmon to kill potential parasites, before defrosting and starting the curing process? There appears to be a host of conflicting information on the net about this subject, from 24h after freezing to the core at -20°c to a whopping 7 days at the same core temperature.

Would be very interested to hear what other posters who home (dry) cure their fish - without further hot smoking - do.

BB


Doing some quick googling, it appears the guidelines are -20C for 7 days or -35C for 24 hours if served fresh, -20C for 24 hours if served lightly cured.


The article you linked to was the one that got me thinking about this - in it the author questions the exact wording, in particular in his view it should be 24h freezing at -20°c to be counted from the time the core has reached -20°c. Which adds quite a bit of time to the 24h freezing.
Belgian Blue

#92 rarerollingobject

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:01 PM

Does the beet add just color or both color and flavor?


To my palate, it noticeably alters the taste..a little sweeter, earthier, nuttier. Something slightly different from normal cured salmon, somwehow. But it's pretty subtle.

#93 rarerollingobject

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:05 PM

The results, after a short 12 hour cure. I'm aware that standard cures are longer, but I like a softer texture and, I wanted to eat it!

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Served on a rye cracker smeared with a very mild chevre, a drizzle of olive oil and cracked pepper.

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#94 David Ross

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:10 PM


Does the beet add just color or both color and flavor?


To my palate, it noticeably alters the taste..a little sweeter, earthier, nuttier. Something slightly different from normal cured salmon, somwehow. But it's pretty subtle.

I like the differences from the typically cured salmon.

#95 David Ross

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:52 PM

Today I started smoking some Sea Scallops. I'm admittedly naive when it comes to vacuum-sealing, sous vide, or any type of technical measurements based on grams, drams or weight. Don't know a thing about how to do it. So based on your suggestions for Scallops that we've discussed during the Cook-Off, I blindly walked into this latest experiement.

These are large, fresh Sea Scallops that I got at my local fish store. I forgot to ask where they came from, but whatever sea it is, it produces some lovely Scallops-
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I seasoned the Scallops with lime juice, lime zest and some dried red pepper flakes and just a sprinkle of Kosher salt-
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Then using my Foodsaver machine, I vacuum-sealed the Scallops-
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I let the Scallops quick-cure in the vacuum bag, refrigerated, for two hours. I'm not sure how long the Scallops should actually go in this "ceviche-style" cure of lime juice, but I knew I didn't want to go to far and that's why I limited the curing time to two hours. I was looking for just a hint of citrus flavor and enough time for the acid of the lime juice to breakdown the protein of the Scallop but not overcook it.

Ready for the smoker-
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I hot-smoked the Scallops with alderwood for two hours at a temperature of 160, checking the Scallops every 30 minutes or so to make sure they were still soft to the touch-
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I read one recipe for Smoked Scallops that calls for letting them sit overnight in olive oil to temper the smoke flavor and to let the oil soak in to keep the meat moist. So right now the Sea Scallops are resting in olive oil in the fridge.

Tommorrow the Smoked Sea Scallops will go into a dish with lime, olives and prosciutto-
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#96 David Ross

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 06:24 PM

Well, it took about a week of planning, a day of brining, curing and smoking, resting overnight, then today, Smoked Sea Scallops. The dish turned out magnificent!

I sliced the Scallops about 1/4" thick then laid the slices on the plate. The seasoning was a drizzle of olive oil and just a hint of fresh lime juice. Then the garnishes were toasted almonds, green and black olives, lime zest, micro-greens and little shards of fried red onion. Folks, you have to smoke some Sea Scallops. The Scallops that didn't go on the appetizer plate are going into a pasta dish with lots of garlic.

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#97 David Ross

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 06:56 PM

Just realized I forget the little nuggets of fried prosciutto as another garnish for the Smoked Sea Scallops. Details, details.

#98 scubadoo97

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 05:09 AM

Really nice looking dish David

#99 Jeff W.

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 02:08 PM

I'm loving this topic.

I have ZERO experience in curing fish except for making ceviche. My husband went walleye fishing on Saturday and brought home a huge catch. It includes some white bass. I happen to have a bunch of limes that need using up, so I'm going to contribute to this thread this afternoon (as soon as I'm done planting some tomatoes etc. in my garden).

David
, I'm in awe/love of your Bradley smoker. We (and I use we verrrry lightly lol because my husband does all of the meat smoking) have a run-of-the-mill Brinkman smoker. It does fine and I'm pretty sure that it's the only type of smoker my husband has ever used. I'd like to get one like you have and branch out a bit. I'm wondering if they make smaller versions or if the size you have is what we would want. We are a 2 person family and we don't smoke a huge amount at a time. I have a feeling I would have a hard time convincing my husband to go for an electric smoker, so I gotta do research to re-butt any arguments lol. Also, and this might be a stupid question, do you leave your smoker outdoors at all times?



Shelby,

I have a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, somewhat similar to the Bradley. Mine is 30" and has four racks, so probably close to what your looking for. It is all digitally controlled, and does not use 'Pucks' - it uses regular wood chips (means every hour or two you need to manually add chips. I've had it a couple of years and I LOVE it; it is so much more convenient and accurate than my old charcoal water smoker (Coleman).

This is where I got it

#100 David Ross

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 06:52 PM

I agree and I also love my electric smoker. Electric, digital smokers might be seen by some purists as not traditional, but I'd rather have the confidence and convenience of having complete control over the smoking time and temperature inside the smoker rather than sitting in a lawn chair outside next to a smoker for 12 hours. And in all honesty, I'm feeling that the flavors of the smoked fish I'm producing out of my Bradley Smoker are far better than the old metal smoker I still have sitting
on the patio.

#101 Kouign Aman

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 10:39 PM

I suspect someone in the work cafeteria is an eG-er, because today's special salad featured 'house smoked' salmon, a first.
It was very good - a nice light smoke flavor and scent, the salmon was moist and delicate. It was pinker than is shown. The dressing is lime-based, but not so sharp as to overpower.
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#102 Belgian Blue

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 07:37 AM



Hi BB
Understand your frustration:) How long did you cure your salmon?
According to Jmolnari for one kilo of fish you'll need 30g of salt and 15g sugar. Jmolnari mentioned curing for about two days. Depending on thickness, your fish may equilibrate sooner but will not get saltier if left another day or two.

Vacuum wrapping is probably done to keep brine in contact with all surfaces. Same thing could be achieved with a well purged ziplock bag.

I've got to try the vacuum technique. In the old days we were taught to weigh down the salmom in the brine using a can of beans!


The dry cure technique works well in a zip bag too but i've found that in a vacuum bag everything stays cleaner, no chance of leaks and i'm sure that the cure mixture stays in proper contact with the meat without having to turn the bags.

I cure my meats the same way. Salt and vac pack.


To report on my vacuum pack dry curing using 3% salt and 1.5% sugar with Atlantic salmon. I left the salmon in the pack for 52 hours. The reason I didn't remove it sooner is that I couldn't see any noticeable change in either the colour or texture of the salmon, as I can with the non vac pack procedure. The vacuum stayed relatively tight and there was very little liquid visible in the pack.

On removing the salmon it felt very 'wet', sodden in fact which made it difficult to cut. Taste-wise it surprised me given the small amounts used - the salt, sugar and flavourings had penetrated through the entirety of the flesh. However, because of the vacuum, moisture could not drain out of the flesh and the end result is salmon with a texture akin to raw salmon but with the taste of cured salmon. To be honest I'm not sure what to make of it.

Would love to hear what others think.

BB
Belgian Blue

#103 ChefCrash

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 10:45 AM

This thread has become a great resource. Great work everyone.

Hi BB

I don't think vacuum packing prevents liquid from leaching out. Liquid is displaced from inside the flesh to the outside.
I tried the same with two trout fillets. In my case there was quite a bit of liquid. in the bag after 24hrs.

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I too was pleasantly surprised at the saltiness of the smoked fish, but was turned off by the texture which was kind of gummy. Of course the fillets I used were the kind that had sat on ice and misted with water for who knows how long (at the store), so I attributed the texture to perhaps a water soaked fish to start with.

Must try again.

#104 David Ross

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 12:33 PM

My only experience so far was with vacuum-packing the sea scallops for a short time so I'm not sure what the effect would be on salmon. My thought is that it wouldn't be a matter of moisture or flavor but one of texture, especially if the salmon was left too long in the bag. I'd worry that the meat would become gummy or pasty in texture.

My next attempts will be working with Copper River Salmon once the season opens in Alaska. Latest I heard was a May 12 date for the fishery to open.

#105 Belgian Blue

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 04:47 PM

This thread has become a great resource. Great work everyone.

Hi BB

I don't think vacuum packing prevents liquid from leaching out. Liquid is displaced from inside the flesh to the outside.
I tried the same with two trout fillets. In my case there was quite a bit of liquid. in the bag after 24hrs.

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I too was pleasantly surprised at the saltiness of the smoked fish, but was turned off by the texture which was kind of gummy. Of course the fillets I used were the kind that had sat on ice and misted with water for who knows how long (at the store), so I attributed the texture to perhaps a water soaked fish to start with.

Must try again.


Hi ChefCrash and Hi David (I tried 'multiquote' - but I'm obviously not sufficiently proficient at it)!

ChefCrash, my bag had about the same amount of liquid as in your photo, but that is a tiny amount compared to the amount of liquid that would occur in a more 'traditional' dry cure (the type I usually do). Each time I bought the same salmon from the same supermarket (we're not talking 'wild' salmon, but farmed salmon and the supermarket displays its produce on ice and I'm aware that's by no means optimal but, at least, my experiment is consistent). With the more 'traditional' method, I have always had a good result, apart from the last time, when I (way) over-salted.

As the salt enters the flesh, it chases the moisture out, but if the vacuum is fairly tight, the moisture cannot escape and so the texture is, to say the least, not optimal (at least that is how my challenged brain sees things - if I'm wrong, please accept my apologies).

It's the underlying process that baffles me - I just can't figure out how the moisture (liquid) is supposed to escape from the flesh, as it would in a more 'traditional' process, if it's trapped by the vacuum?

No matter - the texture was so unpleasant that it was not good to eat. The whole lot has been binned but that's also part of the learning curve and I'm loving this thread!

BB

p.s. David - I've already made the 'sweet pea risotto'(with scallops) twice. A HUGE culinary joy both times.

Thank you!

BB
Belgian Blue

#106 David Ross

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 05:19 PM

Thanks. That risotto paired with seafood, especially smoked seafood, is going on my all-time great list.

#107 ChefCrash

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 12:08 AM

Hi BB

I think that you and I agree that our experiments show that using 3% salt by weight give about the right saltiness to the fish. Yours cured for 52 hours, mine for about 24. Also, we both didn't like the texture of the final product after being in the brine for those periods.

As far as the amount of liquid leaching from the fish, I think that's proportional to the amount of salt used.

A vacuum-packed bag may be devoid of air, but does not really hold a vacuum. Once your machine starts sealing the bag, the pressure inside the bag is the same as the outside of the bag, one bar (1 atmosphere). Even partial vacuum can only exist in rigid objects from which air can be pumped out without them collapsing, like strong glass jars.

To understand how liquid can be displaced from the fish into the vacuum-packed bag, imagine this:
Fill a small ziplock bag half way with marbles and fill to top with water. Carefully close the bag making sure you squeeze all the air out as you zip it closed. Now place that bag in a bigger vacuum bag and vacuum seal it using your machine.
Now you have a bagful of marbles and water (the fish) inside a vacuum sealed bag. (I'm blowing my own mind here;).

Now imagine remotely introducing holes to (or simply remotely unzipping) the ziplock bag within the vac-sealed bag. What's to keep liquid from leaking from the ziplock bag into the other?

Unfortunately, for this method to work, the resulting brine must stay in contact with the fish to achieve equilibrium.

I hope this helps.

#108 Belgian Blue

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 03:47 PM

Hi ChefCrash,

The penny 'dropped' with your sentence "As far as the amount of liquid leaching from the fish, I think that's proportional to the amount of salt used."
Seeing it in black and white, it makes sense.

As for the marbles and water in a bag (aka the 'fish' with holes, leaking, like any once living organism) within the vac pack - this was a 'let there be light' moment and indeed, the light penetrated. Thank you - I understand and I appreciate you're taking the time to explain.

For me, the texture is as important as the taste and I'll stick to the more traditional method from now on though I shall experiment to see how far I can reduce the amount of salt/sugar in the cure and still obtain a good result.

Thanks again

BB

BB

Edited by Belgian Blue, 05 May 2012 - 03:47 PM.

Belgian Blue

#109 David Ross

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Posted 18 May 2012 - 06:16 AM

The 2012 Copper River Salmon is open! The season got underway yesterday, May 17, (a bit later than in past years). I'm headed down to the fish market this morning to see when it will land in Spokane. I'm hoping either today or tommorrow. I'm planning on doing a traditional Gravlax-style cure and a very light cold-smoke on the salmon. Maybe something unique for curing or smoking the belly of the Copper River salmon since it has so much rich oil. Then again, maybe some Copper River "Indian Candy."

#110 David Ross

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Posted 19 May 2012 - 06:54 PM

Details and photos later, but this morning, Saturday, May 19, I got the second Copper River Salmon of 2012 sold by my fishmonger. He had just gotten back from personally picking-up the salmon at the airport and I was second in line. After a traditional cure of salt and sugar, then a rest in the cold air of the refrigerator, it's in the smoker right now getting a short cold-smoke. I'm hoping for a hint of cure in the gravlax-style and just a whisper of smoke so I don't destroy the natural oils of this beautiful salmon. Let's cross our fingers that it will turn out delicious.

#111 David Ross

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 05:33 PM

My first dish using 2012 Copper River Salmon was a cured and cold-smoked filet of Sockeye. At the time I bought the salmon, the season had just opened on May 17, and the prodigious 2012 season continues today, June 1, two weeks later. We are still getting daily shipments of fresh Copper River Sockeye and Chinook in Eastern, Washington, so I today I bought more salmon for my next dish. For those of you who live further East, I’m hoping you’ve seen some of these beautiful fish in your markets this Spring.

As you can see, rare, wild salmon that has a limited harvest season each year doesn’t come cheap. Personally, I prefer the Sockeye over the Chinook, (King), because it has a higher oil content than its larger cousin. Part of the expensive per pound price of this salmon is attributed to the public relations efforts of the Copper River fishery. Yet with salmon so oily, rich and with a taste so pure, one doesn’t shy away from the cost of this once-a-year delicacy.

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The recipe I found suggested a cure ratio of 16oz of salt to 4 oz of sugar. Wow I thought, that’s going to taste like one of those salt licks you put out in the cow pasture—and that much salt will kill Copper River Salmon. I tempered the ratio down to 1/3 cup of Kosher salt to ¼ cup of sugar. I also added a couple of tablespoons of Salish Smoked Alder Salt that comes from a company in Seattle. (Sea salt smoked over alder wood—the traditional wood used by Native Americans to roast salmon).


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I purchased a whole side of salmon and cut it in half. Each salmon filet was liberally dusted with the salt/sugar mix then allowed to cure, covered, in the refrigerator for 7 hours.

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After curing for 7 hours, I rinsed off the salmon and then put it back in the refrigerator for another two hours, uncovered, to dry out the flesh. Then I cold-smoked the salmon, (smoke only, no heat), using alder wood chips. Next up, thinly sliced and eaten with no garnishment.


#112 David Ross

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 05:52 PM

And the sliced Cured, Cold-Smoked, Copper River Sockeye-

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In all honesty, I wondered if I had even needed to go through all the effort to cure and cold-smoke this salmon. If they graded salmon like they do Kobe Beef, this was A-10 level. One could savor Copper River Salmon as sashimi and not be disappointed. Yet the cure added a hint of the salty sea and the driftwood scent of a Northwest campfire. And I can tell you no one else at the office had a bagel with Copper River Salmon for breakfast.

#113 scubadoo97

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 08:27 AM

Sure no one was eating better than you David. Looks fantastic and sure it tasted as good as it looks

#114 David Ross

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 09:45 AM

Sure no one was eating better than you David. Looks fantastic and sure it tasted as good as it looks


Thanks. Yesterday I started curing another Copper River Sockeye--this time a traditional Scandanavian-style gravlax with spices and Aquavit that I'll let cure for three days but I won't be adding any smoke.

#115 David Ross

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 06:24 PM

For the second dish using Copper River Sockeye I used a Scandanavian recipe for gravlax-style cured and brined salmon. I have an employee whose family lives in Norway and twice a year she travels home, bringing back my requested gift of a bottle of Aquavit. The region where her family lives favors Aquavit with a heavy caraway influence and so that's the style that she brings back to America. Adding Aquavit to the cure/brine for gravlax isn't a taste that everyone would like--it's heady and the caraway gives it a pronounced licorice flavor and aroma. But not to worry, since Copper River Salmon is a bold fish with lots of oil it can stand-up to the intensity of the alcohol.

I started with the spice mixture, a combination of 1 tbsp. caraway seeds, 2 tsp. fennel seeds, dash red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp. black peppercorns and 1 tbsp. juniper berries-
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I used a 50-50 ratio of 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to 1/4 cup sugar. Most recipes call for a greater ratio of salt to sugar, but I've always tempered the ratio down to 50-50 to cut down on the salt flavor in the finished product. A 1/2 cup of total salt and sugar doesn't seem much for a 6 pound fish, but with Copper River Salmon I just wanted to move the fish from raw to lightly cured and spiced gravlax-
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A 6 pound filet, boned, skin on, then cut in half-
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The filets rubbed with the spice and salt/sugar cure-
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Then a layer of fresh baby dill-
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And then the other half of the filet layed on top-
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I poured about 1/3 cup of Aquavit over the top salmon filet, then covered and refrigerated the salmon. I let the salmon cure 3 1/2 days, turning it over daily and basting with the juices from the cure/brine.

#116 David Ross

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Posted 08 June 2012 - 07:04 PM

Spiced Copper River Sockeye Gravlax with Aquavit, Spring Asparagus, Capers, Chive Blossoms, Lemon, Olive Oil and Rye Croutons-
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#117 scubadoo97

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Posted 14 June 2012 - 03:41 PM

Please PM me your address, I'll be right over :biggrin: That looks fantastic David

#118 David Ross

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Posted 16 June 2012 - 10:23 AM

Please PM me your address, I'll be right over :biggrin: That looks fantastic David


One of my best dishes ever. I've been eating more Copper River Salmon this year than ever. I imagine an appetizer like the one I did above would cost a pretty penny in a restaurant.

#119 David Ross

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 05:50 PM

This has been one of the best Copper River Salmon runs in recent years--and I just can't help myself from using it in dishes that use "cured" fish. In this dish, I used a ceviche-style, "quick-cure" with citrus juice and Asian flavors for a Copper River Salmon "Poke." As you know, Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish using fresh seafood dressed with lime or lemon juice and accented with other Asian-inspired flavors. Sometimes Poke includes diced tomato, cucumber or sweet peppers, but this time I left it nude with just the Salmon dressed with a simple vinaigrette.

Once again I used the Copper River Sockeye for it's fresh, clean, deep salmon flavor and its high oil content. I cut the salmon into small dice and tossed it with some Chinese peppercorn chili oil, chives, toasted sesame seeds and a soy-ginger-garlic vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was composed of fresh ginger, fresh garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh shallots and grapeseed oil.

I used some dried seaweed sheets to create layers of the "Napolean," then the Salmon Poke, Seaweed, more Salmon Poke and a garnish of fresh chives and dried fried red onion. The only thing missing was a glass of crisp, chilled Riesling.

Copper River Salmon "Poke-
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#120 David Ross

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 06:01 PM

I found these wonderful wild-caught Smelt in the market. Frozen and harvested in Peru of all places. I've always used Smelt caught out of dip-nets off the Columbia River in Oregon, so I wasn't sure how the Peruvian Smelt would taste. The advantage of these Smelt over what we used to get in Oregon is that they were pre-cleaned--heads off and some industrial strength gutter had removed all the nasty innards.

I brined them in a mixture of water, salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, clove, thyme and brown sugar. The recipes I found called for only brining the Smelt for 1 hour and up to 4 hours. I brined them overnight and they were just fine, absorbing all the brine flavors yet not overpowered with salt. Then dried, uncovered, in the fridge for 4 hours and smoked at 180 for 3 hours. I let them sit in Greek olive oil overnight, then served with some minced lemon zest and capers.

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