Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cured/ Smoked Salmon - Part 1 of 2

Given that I have eaten nothing but smoked salmon sandwiches for breakfast for the past 3 months, there is a strong possibility that without it, I will cease to survive. So, it is with serious desire to avoid an untimely death before I even make it to the dreaded 3-0 that I embark on this two-stage process of curing and then smoking a side of salmon. The neufchatel that I typically schmear on my homemade whole-wheat sourdough will be sorely missed in 2010, but alas, I don't have the skill set to take on that beastly burden -- not yet anyways.

Curing a whole side of salmon is actually quite easy -- assuming you have the financial wherewithal to drop $60 at the rip-off that is your neighborhood foodie haven. Begin by cleaning the fish and scoring the skin side so that it does not curl up and the salt has a chance to fully penetrate the flesh. Liberally cover the salmon, top and bottom, with the cure as well as dill for flavor, and wait several days. At this point, the fish will be delicious but void of its signature smoky flavor. Slice some off for nibbling and then proceed to the smoking process -- to be described in detail in the coming week.

Makes 1 full side of salmon

4 cups sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 side of salmon, about 4 pounds
1 bunch dill, washed and well dried
black pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, stir together salt, brown sugar, and white sugar.
2. Remove all of the pin bones from the fish. This is most easily accomplished by running your index finger down the center of the fillet until you feel something hard and pointy. Using needle-nose pliers, carefully extract each bone.
3. Using a sharp boning knife, remove any visible white membranes from the surface.
4. Score the skin side of the fish deeply enough to penetrate the skin but not the flesh. Do this in 3 long diagonal strokes.
5. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Place a piece of cheesecloth large enough to fully envelope the fish on the rack.
6. Sprinkle a thick layer of the salt/sugar mixture onto the cheesecloth. Lay several sprigs of dill on top of the cure.
7. Lay the fish, skin side down, on top of the dill.
8. Season the flesh liberally with black pepper. Place the remaining sprigs of dill on the flesh.
9. Cover the top and sides of the salmon with the remaining cure. Make sure that you cannot see any of the flesh poking out of the cure.
10. Pull the cheesecloth up and over the top, covering the entire fish.
11. Place a baking sheet on top of the fish and weigh it down with a heavy pot.
12. Place the entire apparatus in the refrigerator for 3 days.
To be continued...

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