What Are You Smokin’?



have a smoker at home that is a little rickety with age, but still turns out
some pretty good stuff. Of course, we
don’t have access to the fresh fish there that we have here in Apalachicola, so  we’ve never really put it through its
paces. I’ve chiefly used it for smoked
salmon (the only way I can stand to eat farmed salmon is smoked) and smoked
cheese (Monterey Jack will stand up to the heat of the smoker without melting
and it is wonderful smoked!) I wrote
more about the ins and outs of smoking in this column.

in Apalach we have a bounty of fish but no smoker, so Jer went to the hardware
store and bought a Brinkmann Gourmet smoker and Grill – a shiny red contraption
that is much more stylin’ than the cardboard Little Chief back in  Bloomington.  But  basically, they work the same. An electric coil keeps wood smoking with
minimal heat so the food cooks slowly (you can smoke food on a regular grill,
but it’s hard to control the heat and you want a SLOW cook so the smoke can
permeate the food before it dries out.)

with a whole mullet and a good chunk of grouper in hand, I got online to find
some fish smoking recipes. There is more
involved than just throwing the fish into the smoker – it needs to soak in a
flavored brine of some sort and then you dry it out so it develops a shiny
hardened skin. A good basic resource is

cobbled a brine recipe from several sources, and used 2 quarts water, ¾ cup
kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 bay leaves, ½ cup distilled vinegar, peppercorns. Soaked the fish for about an
hour (and I think I would do longer next time) and then put it on a rack under
a ceiling fan to dry for another hour. Then we popped it into the smoker and a little over 2 hours later,
voila, smoked fish.

like my fish a little smokier and a little drier, but for most people I imagine
this was pretty near perfect. We
celebrated by eating some right away, hot and flakey, on crackers with
lemon. Yummm.

smoked fish dip was my real goal. Seafood-2-Go here in Apalach makes a dynamite smoked grouper dip – rich
and creamy with a jalapeño bite. Trouble
is, it’s got about a bazillion fat calories and my addiction to it is one of
the reasons I am trying to lose some weight right now. So I improvised. Flaked some smoked grouper into a bowl and
added 3 tablespoons of light Helmans, some chopped red onion, and some chopped
jalapeño, plus salt and pepper. It was very
good, but maybe because the fish wasn’t smoky enough for me, it didn’t have the
same addictive quality. Grouper is a
funny fish to smoke in any case, because it isn’t very oily and it doesn’t get
that rich smoked flavor. I wonder if
they add liquid smoke over at Seafood-2-Go?

the grouper dip was fine, but the smoked mullet dip was FABULOUS. There are a many, many recipes for this
spread out there, but the one I used comes from a favorite cookbook: Gulf Coast Cooking by Virginia
Elverson. This book covers the gulf
coast, from Florida to New Orleans and Texas to  the Yucatán with gorgeous photos and luscious recipes. Though I toyed with the recipe a bit, it was
close enough to the book that it deserves credit. It’s simple to make once you have the smoked
fish which, honestly, you don’t need to smoke yourself.

you come by it, flake two cups of fish, skinned and boned, and combine with 4
tablespoons light Helman’s (Elverson used the full fat stuff), ½ cup chopped
celery, ½ cup chopped red onion, ½ cup chopped red bell pepper, 1 small clove
of garlic, chopped, 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 heaping tablespoon
of chopped pickled jalapeños, salt and pepper. Mix it all together and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours
to meld the flavors while you go to the beach, then come home and eat it on
crackers for dinner. WOW!


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Alanna says:

    My brother-in-law’s father was a commercial fisherman and he/they would do the most wonderful smoked fish. This sure sounds like it would give that a run for its money!


  2. It is definately THAT time of year. This looks good. Thanks


  3. Ronnie says:

    I didn’t know about soaking it in some sort of flavored brine. I need to try that next time.
    Smoked mullet dip looks amazing. But the big question: how many points on WW?


  4. Ed Bruske says:

    Got the smoker, now to get some fish. Thanks for that post. A good idea.


  5. Hi Alanna — if they made a living from fish, they probably know how to do it right. Any idea how they did it?
    It is THAT time of year, Hank. Sun, sand, water and fish.
    With light mayo, Ronnie, not as many points as you’d think. It’s not as rich, but that’s not a bad thing in my book. The brining is a good step. My brother-in-law brines salmon and then coats it in brown sugar before he smokes it. It’s heavenly (but of course he lives in Oregon and buys wonderful salmon, too.)
    Let’s hear about it when you do, Ed!


  6. Alanna says:

    Um. Would you believe it? Thanks to the inspiration of this post ONLY YESTERDAY, I’m now the proud owner of a smoker and have already had my first lesson: shrimp and scallops and trout and all WONDERFUL. On to vegetables … : -0)


  7. Alright, Alanna! Waiting the smoked vegetable reports!


  8. T.W. Barritt says:

    I had no idea you could do this at home 🙂
    I’m going to check this out and see what I can come up with!


  9. Freya says:

    I have a book called Preserved which has lots of home smoking recipes in it – how I envy you for having lots of local fish! It is so expensive where we are (UK). But my favourite smoked fish of all is Eel. So delicious! Look forward to reading more of your smoking adventures!


  10. TW, yup, this is something you can definitely try at home. But it’s addictive, be careful. It’s amazing the things you can decide might taste good smoked.
    Freya, checked our local fish shop for eel, but it doesn’t seem to be a Florida thing. I remember seeing lots of smoked eel when we lived in England, though.


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