Home-Cured Smoked Salmon
If you are an active angler, bring home your own fish and regale your friends with a fishing story or two while you enjoy one of the most appetizing dishes ever to come off a grill.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups salt
- 1/4 cup freshly ground pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 wild salmon fillet, 2 1/2 to 3 lb., pin bones removed
- 2 to 3 handfuls of hardwood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- Flatbread crackers for serving (optional)
For the horseradish crème fraîche:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh horseradish, patted dry
- 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 6 to 7 fresh dill fronds, finely chopped
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, pepper, bay leaves and thyme. Pour one-third of the curing mixture into the bottom of a pan large enough to accommodate the salmon. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cover with the remaining mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours but preferably 12 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
To make the horseradish crème fraîche, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Place in the refrigerator. In a small bowl, using a whisk, beat the crème fraîche until thickened. (It may appear watery at first but will come together to form stiff peaks.) Fold in the horseradish, lemon juice, sugar and dill. Fold the crème fraîche mixture into the whipped cream. Serve immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat. Wipe the curing mixture off the salmon and discard. Rinse the salmon under cold running water for 10 to 15 minutes and pat dry with paper towels.
For a charcoal grill: Sprinkle half of the soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the salmon on a metal smoking rack and set the rack on the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the salmon is cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Replenish the coals and wood chips every 30 minutes to maintain constant temperature and smoke.
For a gas grill: Increase one burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of soaked wood chips until smoking, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the salmon on a metal smoking rack and set the rack on the cooler side of the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the salmon is cooked through, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Replenish the wood chips every 30 minutes to maintain constant temperature and smoke.
Transfer the salmon to a cutting board. Serve immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To serve, slice the salmon on the diagonal, starting at the tail section. Arrange on a large cutting board or chilled plate. Serve the flatbread crackers and the horseradish crème fraîche on the side. Serves 10 to 12.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).