Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alder Smoked Sockeye Salmon

(about 3 lbs)

I've wanted to try smoking salmon the moment my mum mentioned she had a smoker in her garage. I finally got around to it this week. This was my first attempt at smoking anything and boy was I ever thrilled with the results! The salmon was amazing! I'm having a hard time keeping out of it. It's like having a box of chocolates in the house.

This recipe came together after I looked at several sources both online and at the local library, as well as tidbits gleaned here and there from chatting with people in and around Sequim. I used alder chips because that appears to be the preferred wood for smoking salmon here on the Olympic Peninsula.

I used less salt than some of the recipes suggested because I was fearful my salmon would turn out too salty, especially if it sat in a brine for close to a day. That length of time appealed to me, although I can't really rationalize that sentiment. In any case, the amount of salt I did use appears to have been plenty. Despite the 17 hours or so the salmon soaked in the brine, the finished fish wasn't too salty.

3 cups water (1 cup hot, 2 cups cold)
1/4 cup kosher or non-iodized salt
1/2 cup sucanat or brown sugar
2 tsp crushed black peppercorns

Combine the salt with one cup of hot water (in a non-reactive bowl or dish large enough to hold the brine as well as the salmon) and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the sucanat and stir until that has dissolved. Stir in the crushed peppercorns. Set aside until the mixture has cooled down.

Add the remaining two cups of cold water to the brine.

3 1/2 lbs fresh wild caught sockeye salmon fillets, skin left on

Rinse the salmon in cold water and cut into large pieces. I had two large fillets. I cut each into 3 pieces, each piece about 5-6 inches in length.

Place the salmon into the brine skin side down making sure it's submerged in the liquid. (Skin side down makes it easier to remove the pieces the next day). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Use a small plate to weigh down the fish if necessary.

Allow the fish to soak for about 15 - 24 hours. The longer the fish is in the brine, the saltier it will become. I soaked mine for about 17 1/2 hours which seemed just about right for me.

coarsely cracked black pepper (optional)

Remove the fish and pat dry. Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper, if desired. Arrange on a rack, skin side down (I used the rack from the smoker) and let it dry for about 3-4  hours in a cool place. Ideally this should happen underneath a fan or in a breezy location. My mum's back deck was perfect for this; cool and windy. The surface of the salmon will become smooth and shiny. This is called the pellicle. Once the pellicle has formed, you can store your salmon in the refrigerator for a few hours if you plan on delaying the smoking for a bit.

alder wood chips soaked in water for about 30-45 minutes (amount of chips determined by the smoker you are using)

Remove the fish from the rack. Clean the rack and lightly oil it. Place the salmon on the oiled rack, skin side down, not touching.

Prepare your smoker.

The smoker I'm using has a thermostat which I set to roughly about **100°F. I smoked the fish for about 1 hour at this temperature before brushing it with the glaze I made, below.

fresh lime juice
fresh lime zest

Combine the honey with the lime juice until you have a glaze thin enough to brush. The amount of juice will depend on how thick/stiff your honey is. Stir in the zest and brush some of this mixture over the salmon. (Brush the salmon with the glaze every hour or so). After the glaze was applied I smoked the fish for another 1 1/2 hours at around 100°F.

Then I increased the temperature to about 150°F and smoked the salmon for about 3 hours (for half this time I left the vent on the hood of the smoker open and then closed it for the remaining time). All together the salmon was in the smoker for about ***5-6 hours. The internal temperature of the fish should reach about 130°F to 140°F when it's done.

The thicker pieces turned out perfect and the thinner pieces were a bit on the dry side, although they weren't any dryer than the hot smoked salmon I've picked up at the market. I didn't have an instant read thermometer which might have helped determine how much time the salmon needed to remain in the smoker.

** Several people mentioned it's best to begin with a low temperature and increase that slightly over time. The reason for this is that if the temperature is too high, especially at the beginning, the salmon will "bleed" a large amount of a white substance which means the fish will likely be dryer than it should be. A small amount of this stuff is normal.

***This time will vary depending on the thickness of your salmon and the temperature and type of smoker.

I'm told the smoked salmon will keep for about a week or so, well wrapped in the refrigerator. I also froze several pieces.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Microwaved Corn on the Cob

Yesterday while I was out for my walk, I stopped by the U-pick farm. A neighbor mentioned they were selling freshly picked corn for 25¢ an ear, which is a bargain in this neck of the woods. I grabbed a few for snacking.

Corn is quick and easy to prepare in the microwave if you are just cooking one or two ears. It beats bringing a pot of water to a boil.

per serving
1 ear corn, leave the husk on, 
but trim the ends (see photo below)

serve with butter and/or salt

The fresher the corn, the less time to microwave is required. I have been giving these freshly picked ears (cooking one at a time) about 3 minutes at the high setting, using a 1000 watt oven (adjust accordingly). You might have to add an extra minute or so if the corn is a few days older. To cook two or three cobs at once, increase the time by 1-3 minutes. You might have to experiment a bit with your oven until you get a feel for it.

Remove the corn from the oven and allow to sit for about 2 minutes. It will be hot.

Carefully peel back the husks and enjoy.

*If you remove the husk and the corn is not cooked enough to your liking, then wrap the cob in a moist paper towel and microwave it a bit longer.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Red Chard with Currants & Feta

(4 servings)

Almost everywhere I go here on the Olympic Peninsula, I come across bunches of beets and chard. Both crops appear to be abundant here. The chard especially always looks very colorful and inviting; bunches of rainbow and reds.

I wanted to try something a bit different with the chard (other than braising it with lemon and garlic). I found an interesting recipe on Epicurious which added currants and feta cheese. The finished dish was delicious! I will definitely make this again.

adapted from Epicurious
1 bunch chard, about 1 lb
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
a few grinds of black pepper
2- 3 pinches red pepper flakes
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp dried currants
1/3 cup crumbled feta

Wash the chard and shake off the excess water. It's not necessary to dry. Trim off the very ends of the chard, then cut the stems into one inch pieces. Set aside. Cut the leaves into one inch ribbons. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until it begins to brown. Quickly add the reserved stems and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the sliced leaves. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes evenly over the chard and add the water and currants. Cook about 3-5 minutes. (I cooked mine for 5 minutes. That was too much for me personally. I would have preferred it crispier. So, watch the chard carefully until you like the texture.)

Remove from heat and stir in the feta.