Small town living has it’s charms. However, when you live in a town as small as the one I live in, you have to find ways to amuse yourself. We don’t have movie theaters or art galleries or even a grocery store! So several of my neighbors and I get together every once in while to watch Twin Peaks and we turn it into a party.
Yes, we’re that desperate.
I volunteered to bring a salad to the last Twin Peaks night. I made the Rocky Mountain Woman version of Salade Nicoise using smoked salmon instead of tuna and it was a hit!
Here’s how I smoked the salmon:
First rinse the filet with cold water and remove any tiny bones you see (a tweezer works well for this)
Make a dry brine of the following: 1/2 cup of kosher salt (regular salt just doesn’t cut it in this recipe), 1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light, whatever you have on hand), 1/2 cup white sugar, lots of freshly ground pepper. On a cookie sheet, spread a piece of aluminum foil about twice as big as the salmon filet and then line the inside of it with a piece of plastic wrap about the same size. Sprinkle about half of the brine on top of the plastic wrap. Place the filet in the middle and then sprinkle the rest of the brine on top. Seal the package well with the plastic wrap against the fish and the aluminum foil on the outside. It should look something like this:
Then put another, smaller cookie sheet on top and weigh it down with something heavy (cookbooks work fine). Put it in the refrigerator and let it sit there at least overnight. I try to let it have 24 hours to brine, but usually I’m not organized enough to start it a whole day ahead.
While the salmon is brining, start soaking some mesquite chips. I like to use the large, chunky ones. Just put them in a bucket and pour water over them. Wet chips make more smoke and smoke is what we’re after here…
Take the salmon out of the refrigerator about six hours before you plan to serve it, and rinse it thoroughly with cold water to get all of the brine off, and then let it air dry on racks for a few hours. Here in the mountains, it’s so dry that my salmon dries out within in an hour or two. If you live where there is humidity, it will probably take a little longer.
I’m making two filets today so I have one to take to the party and one to eat later!
Fire up the smoker. I usually put a mixture of white wine and water in the water pan. Put the salmon in the smoker and let it smoke. I usually start checking it at about a 1/2 hour. You don’t want to overcook it. It’s done when it flakes easily and has a slightly smoky flavor. How long to smoke it depends on how dry the salmon was, how cold it is outside, how windy it is, etc., etc., It’s just something you have to experiment with.
While the salmon is smoking, you can make the rest of the salad. Clean some new small potatoes and cut them in half. Boil until just barely soft (about 20 minutes).
Hard boil some eggs.
Thinly slice a red onion
Drain a can or two of black olives
Steam some fresh green beans for about 10 minutes and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
When the salmon is finished smoking, assemble the salad on a large tray:
First place the salmon on the platter, then put the rest of the ingredients in piles around the salmon. I usually include the following: steamed green beans, halved boiled new potatoes, halved hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced onion, black olives, capers, cream cheese & crackers. It should look something like this:
Drizzle the whole thing with the following vinaigrette:
Whisk together the following:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 T walnut oil
3 T chardonnay vinegar
2 t cider vinegar
drop of honey
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
This is an amazingly beautiful salad to take to any type of pot luck.