Thursday, August 22, 2013
DIY Faux Smoked Salmon, STEP ONE: the inspiration.
Smoked Salmon aka lox aka best bagel topper in the world.
Is there a person out there who doesn't like smoked salmon? Gosh, I hope not.
Unfortunately, it can be pricey, and is one of those things that's hard to make at home. For the average bear, cold smoking is something that takes a fair amount of preparation, time, and technique.
Much like self-confidence, if you can't make it - fake it! I have attempted to make DIY Smoked Salmon/Gravlax two ways and will document them both here. This is step one!!
I was craving smoked salmon the other day but as I'm on a relatively limited budget I was holding out. And by holding out I mean looking at dozens upon dozens of smoked salmon centred recipes on Tastespotting. Shockingly, this did absolutely nothing to cure my craving for smoked salmon. And then it hit me. THE CURE. LITERALLY. If I couldn't make smoked salmon myself, could I fake smoked salmon? Would I? Should I? DARE I?!
The answer dear readers, is yes. A quick google will turn up dozens of recipes purporting to be DIY smoked salmon. But if it involves a salt cure and no actual cold-smoking, you do not have smoked salmon, you have gravlax.
A traditional Nordic dish, gravlax involves salmon cured in a salt-sugar-dill mix. Traditionally made by the seashore, gravlax was buried below the tide line leading the the name grav (grave) and lax (salmon). Buried salmon. Now while this buried salmon isn't smoked salmon, it's a delicious buried treasure. Many people make their own gravlax these days around Christmas time using nothing but some fish, salt, sugar, dill, and a giant Tupperware container.
The first time I tried gravlax, was at a non-denominational holiday party during grad school. A certain professor had made gravlax for said party. Upon arriving, she discovered that there was no booze as the faculty had not registered for a liquor license. Appalled that we had no liquor license and thus weren't having any festive wine, she dumped the gravlax on the table and retreated up the marble steps to her office with two juice pitchers. In her absence, us ravenous graduate students devoured the cured salmon platter. Several minutes later, the aforementioned professor returned with two juice pitchers full of a liquid I assumed to be wine. After drinking the two very full glasses poured for me by our gravlax wielding professor, I discovered that not only was the liquid not wine, but rather sherry, and subsequently, I was a tad foxed. Foxed and full of gravlax.
Good times, good times.
Thanks my 60 year old professor of religious studies, I had the inspiration and thanks to our Nordic brethren, I had the technique. Now all I had to figure out was how to smoked it. And that's where liquid smoke comes in. Essentially water flavour with condensed smoke, it's an essential flavouring ingredient in everything from tofu to bacon. While anything with smoke in it isn't the greatest thing for your health, used in moderation liquid smoke adds a hint of woodsy charm. If you were drinking 3 bottles a day I might be concerned, but a few tsps to 'smoke' some salmon? SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM.
Not content with only ONE faux-ed salmon, I looked around for a second recipe. One of my tasty loves is salmon sashimi 'nachos'. Salmon sashimi with avocado, radish, green onion and a drizzle of salsa fresca or cilantro cream. YUM.
Ergo I have made two smoked salmons. I bought a pound of wild sockeye salmon, and divided that beautiful piece of fish in half. Half has gone to a traditional 'smoked salmon' recipe, while the second has gone to a spicy mexican cure to top my salmon sashimi nachos. These are currently curing in my fridge. I will post STEP TWO complete with recipes once they're cured and I've eaten enough of it (all of it) to ensure it's delicious.