One of the finest presents my wife ever gave me long before we were married was a Luhr Jensen Big Chief wood smoker. I have a heroin-like addiction to smoked salmon and trout, lox, and the ever-so-delicious Scandanavian gravlax. Needless to say this was a fine gift, and for a while there I found it necessary to treat every fish I kept for the table to an applewood or hickory smoking. Bring a nice platter of smoked fish you caught to a party and folks are impressed. It’s fun to look fancy.
Smoking also works wonders on fish that are acquired tastes to begin with. As an example, the picture above is of a few racks of smoked Atlantic bonito fillets I made last summer. I happen to like this fish fresh. Many people do not. But serve it up smoked and they lick the plate clean.
However, I never got terribly creative with my brines for fear of messing up a batch of fish that smoked for all those hours. My preferred brew for oily fish, like bonito or bluefish, was ice water, brown sugar, sea salt, orange juice, fresh basil, and a splash of lime juice. Not super impressive I know, but it tasted good. I was very into honey glazes for mild fish like trout and salmon, sometimes even spilling a touch of beer into the brine for an added nuttiness.
I’m not sure how many of you smoke fish, but if you do, I’d love to hear about which fish you prefer and your favorite brines. And if you’re into dry-rubs, I’m all ears on those, too. I need some new recipes — JC