by Steven Raichlen
Photographs © Matthew Benson (plus numerous corporate product photos)
It’s summer and across the country everyone is barbequing. If you want to step up your game, consider smoking, and if you do, here’s the guy who can teach you.
Steven Raichlen opens his newest book Project Smoke with the statement “Smoking is easy but it isn’t always simple” and then promises to teach us how in seven easy steps. Put on your student hat because this will be a learning process but those who love smoked food will welcome every word.
Our teacher first presents 14 different types of smokers from handheld to wood-burning to offset… all leading up to the home-built smokehouse. He then offers criteria you might apply to choose what will work for you. By comparison, that seems an easy choice when you then have to decide what fuel to use. Logs? Wood chunks? Wood chips? Pellets? And then, is the choice alder? beech? juniper? oak? Yikes – but fear not…
Raichlen does a remarkable job of explaining and simplifying the advantages, the flavors, what needs to be soaked, etc. For the newbies, he narrows the field of wood choices before moving on to tools necessary to have on hand, smoking methods, how to light the fire and more. He had to be an educator before taking to writing cookbooks (he had 15 under his belt before this one).
Then there are over 100 recipes. Starters include Smoked Eggs, Smoked Planked Camembert and Hay-Smoked Mozzarella, then beef, pork, lamb, burgers, chicken and seafood. Evidently you can smoke just about anything! Consider Smoked Cheesecake, Smoked Bacon-Bourbon Apple Crisp or Smoked Chocolate Bread Pudding. Oh, if you want to smoke a whole hog, just flip to page 92 and note that a 50 pound-hog will serve 30 people but if you have a lot of guests, buy a 225-pound hog which serves 150!
The photo says everything about the Salmon Candy recipe.
- 1 piece (1 1/2 pounds) fresh skinless salmon fillet (preferably a center cut)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar or maple sugar
- 1/4 cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably dark amber or Grade B)
- 1 quart water
- Vegetable oil, for oiling the rack
- Rinse the salmon under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Run your fingers over the flesh side of the fillet, feeling for the sharp ends of pin bones. Pull out any you find with kitchen tweezers.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the salmon widthwise into strips 1 inch wide and 4 to 5 inches long. Transfer the fish to a large heavy-duty resealable plastic bag and place the bag in an aluminum foil pan or baking dish to contain any leaks.
- Combine the brown sugar, salt, and ½ cup of the maple syrup in a bowl. Add the water and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour this over the salmon and seal the bag. Cure in the refrigerator for 8 hours, turning the bag over several times to redistribute the brine.
- Drain the salmon in a colander, discarding the brine, and rinse the salmon well under cold running water. Blot dry with paper towels. Arrange the salmon flesh side up on an oiled wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and let air-dry in the refrigerator until tacky, 2 hours.
- Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225° to 250°F. Add the wood as directed by the manufacturer.
- Place the salmon on its rack in the smoker and smoke until the outside is bronzed with smoke and the salmon feels firm, 30 to 60 minutes. Start brushing the salmon with the remaining ¼ cup of maple syrup after 15 minutes, and brush several times until it’s cooked (about 140°F on an instant-read thermometer). Transfer the salmon candy on its rack to a rimmed baking sheet to cool and brush one final time with maple syrup before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.
- In the unlikely event you have leftovers, store the salmon candy in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator; it will keep for at least 3 days.