>Now we’re smokin’

>If you are foodie, one of the best Seattle hangouts is the Fremont Sunday Market. There are several great food booths, including The Cookie Lady, a steampunk tea place, the Falafel King, and a friend of ours who does scrumptious bruschettas and soup.

Last week I actually made it down to the far end of the market and met Dan, the salmon guy. It was the end of the day and he was selling steelhead fillets for $10 a slab. “If I don’t sell them, I have to take them home and smoke them,” he told us.

We took a slab and went home and smoked it. While the fish, and some cedar planks, were soaking in an apple cider brine Tom devised, I read up on smoking and decided that — in spite of thousand-dollar smokers and special chips and planks — there is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you use plenty of salt, brine for a couple of hours, and finish the fish to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. (You can read some rather repetitive and stern information on all aspects of smoking safety here, but check out the contradictory advice, favoring cedar planks and chips, in this article.)

Some smoke-cooking procedures took a couple of hours. Some took days. Some employed tightly covered smokers, some involved open-air grills. I decided there was a huge voodoo factor.

Growing up in Northern Virginia, we’d had a next-door neighbor, Noyce Griffin, who smoked herring over an open charcoal fire for two or three days. Emboldened by having actually witnessed smoking, I proceeded to improvise a cold smoke procedure on the gas grill that went on for about 12 hours and ended by cranking up the heat to finish the fish for 30 minutes.

It was hilarious. The flames died out, I started it again, the (thin) cedar planks caught fire, I threw water on the flaming planks and billows of great smoke went up (I then lowered the lid of the gas grill to capture the smoke), and all this repeated itself a few times during the night, as I stood on the patio in the mist in my nightgown and the feral cat watched me in amazement. I felt like a cave person being watched by a sabre-tooth tiger.

Late the next the morning I finished the fish on a higher heat for 30 minutes, and brought it in. It not only was great (with crispy skin), it got better over the next 24 hours as the flavor mellowed. Tonight I compared it with a smoked salmon from a well-known local smokehouse. While their texture was a little moister, the commercially smoked salmon was extremely salty. Our thinner fillet was much smoother, going from smokey to tangy and sweet.

This is way too much fun. I now want to try slow smoking oysters, clams, and, of course, smelt and herring.

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