Cold Smoked Salmon
Generally when I refer to smoked salmon, I am referring to cold smoked salmon which is a cured side of salmon that is gently smoked at low temperatures. With cold smoking, the salmon is “cooked” by the curing process and exposed to smoke for flavor. The distinctive texture of cold smoked salmon comes from curing, and makes the flesh firm, but not crumbly like salmon exposed to heat. Hot smoked salmon, on the other hand, is seasoned fresh salmon that is smoked at high temperatures (350-degrees F.) and the fish actually cooks through while smoking, making it flaky and impossible to slice. For more information on smoking, see my previous post “Smoking Foods at Home”.
On our most recent Foodie trip to the Loire valley in France, we cold smoked salmon and turned it into an appetizer “Timbale” by layering thinly sliced cold smoked salmon with cream cheese and hot smoked salmon mousse. We served the timbale with pickled red onions and potato & apple pancakes.
Above is a smoked salmon crostini that is spread with a hot smoked salmon mousse, topped with thinly sliced cold smoked salmon, piped with softened cream cheese and topped with a sprig of fresh dill.
This is one of the Hors d’Oeuvres that I make for our opening night dinner in France. They are small Bouchées (puff pastry cups) that are filled with a dill crème fraîche and a rosette of thinly sliced cold smoked salmon, topped with a sprig of fresh dill.
Coat both sides of a one pound salmon fillet (skin on, pin bones removed) with 1/4 cup of the dry cure mix (recipe below). Place the salmon in a small, deep container with a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours. This process is known as curing. The salt will draw out a great deal of liquid from the salmon and preserve it, actually “cooking” the flesh.
Above I am smoking individual pieces of salmon, but it is best to smoke a large piece or whole side (it is easier to slice). After 24 hours, gently rinse both sides of the salmon under cold water, dry the fish and place skin side down on the smoking rack. Cold smoke the salmon (at a maximum of 90 degrees which is not a problem with the following technique) for an hour with mild wood chips like cherry, apple or alder. I use a 2” full sized hotel pan with a chafing dish cover for cold smoking. I picked up a used chafing dish at a garage sale. The best technique is to get the chips going in a small aluminum foil tray with a torch, add the salmon (above I am using a small roasting pan with a rack on it to keep the salmon off the bottom, but just a cooling rack would do) and close the cover. Allow the smoke to be exposed to the salmon for an hour, checking every 10 minutes to see if there is still smoke present. If there is no smoke, simply re-light the chips with the torch. Depending upon the size of your wood chips (small chunks will last the hour while fine shavings may not), you may need to add new chips as necessary.
Cold smoked salmon is best if allowed to rest for 24 hours after smoking and sliced very thinly with a special thin and flexible carving knife. See my recommendations below in the “Tool Tip”.
Slicing cold smoked salmon is much easier if you have a proper knife for the task. A good salmon slicer is thin, narrow, flexible, long and sharp. Below are three different options at various price points, starting with the most expensive.
This is the knife I use at home to slice cold smoked salmon. The Wüsthof classic 12-inch hallow edge salmon slicer is precision forged high-carbon stainless steel that is made in Germany. I have had my knife for over 30 years and it is great. Note: German knives require frequent sharpening.
Global 12-inch salmon slicing knife – If you have ever worked in the kitchen with me, you know how highly I speak of Global knives. I have a pretty large collection of them. This knife would definitely be in my collection if I didn’t already have the Wüsthof, but one salmon slicing knife in the kitchen is really enough. Made from CROMOVA 18 stainless steel, this 12-inch carving knife is rust, corrosion, and stain resistant. One of my favorite features of all Global knives is that they are carefully weighted to ensure perfect balance and performance and their one-piece construction has no seams (my Wüsthof has a crack in the handle after all this time).
On the bargain side of things, the Arcos 12-inch fish slicing knife is made using a stainless steel patented technique called Nitrum, which provides increased durability, hardness, and high precision cutting. I have many Arcos knifes in my collection and use them on our Foodie trips to Europe. They are made in Spain and I have always found that their quality far surpasses their inexpensive price point.
Dry Cure MixDifficulty: Easy
2 cupsJust Shy
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup coarse Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon dry dill
- Mix all of the ingredients together and keep in a jar until needed.