Sunday-Morning Smoked Salmon
- SERVINGS: 4 to 6
Salmon sometimes has a fishy flavor—the result of its high oil content. A brief soak in vodka or other spirits (such as rum) helps remove this fishy flavor. In terms of smoking wood, I'm partial to cherry, but any hardwood, from hickory to alder, will do.
- 1- to 1-1/2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet
- 1 cup vodka or rum
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- You'll also need: indoor smoker and 1 tablespoon wood sawdust or pellets
- Wash the salmon fillet under cold running water and blot dry. Run your fingers over the fillet, feeling for bones. Pull out any you find with needlenose pliers. Place the fish in a baking dish and pour the vodka over it and turn to coat. Marinate the salmon in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, turning the fish twice.
- Place the sugar, salt, pepper and coriander in a bowl and mix well, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar.
- Drain the fish and blot dry with paper towels. Wipe out the baking dish. Spread 1/3 of the sugar mixture in the bottom of the baking dish in the shape of the fish fillet. Place the fish in the dish, cover and top with the remaining sugar mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and cure the fish in the refrigerator for 4 hours. When properly cured, you'll notice a pool of liquid at the bottom of the baking dish. This is the liquid the salt has drawn out of the fish.
- Rinse the salmon under cold water to wash off the cure. Blot dry with paper towels. Set up your smoker. Place 1 tablespoon sawdust or wood pellets in the center of the bottom of your smoker. Line the drip pan with foil and place it on top. Insert the wire rack. Arrange the salmon fillet, skinned side down, on the rack. Cover the smoker and place over high heat. Smoke the salmon until cooked, about 18 minutes from start to finish. Use the flake test to check for doneness: Press the fish with your finger—it should break into clean flakes.
- Transfer the fish to a cake rack set over a plate to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until serving. (This salmon tastes best served chilled.) Serve with bagels and cream cheese, or with toast points, capers and sour cream.
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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.