This smoked salmon recipe knocked our socks off! Smoky, salty with a touch of sweet, it received rave reviews served on bagels with cream cheese.
Every year during the holidays we serve a charcuterie board/plate with a lot of different cheeses, crackers, dried meats and smoked salmon.
Charcuterie: Here’s what it is and how to pronounce it: Charcuterie (pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree“) is the art of preparing and assembling cured meats and meat products.
In the past, the smoked salmon we served for our holiday splurge was usually purchased at Costco. You’ve seen these packages, they are on a cardboard back and are shrink wrapped or in plastic. They come pre-smoked and may have dill, honey or even be plain salmon. They are great on a cracker or on a bagel with cream cheese and capers.
This year I decided to use my passion for smoking meats in a new way.
I’ve had my smoker for years and have cooked many types of beef, chicken and pork. But I had yet to try smoking a fish so I decided to smoke a fresh salmon for this year’s charcuterie board.
Where to start? The first challenge was figuring out how to smoke a salmon. Cold smoke, hot smoke, drying? Which method should I use?
After scouting the internet I settled on a hot smoke recipe featured on the Weber grills site.
HOT-SMOKED, BOURBON-CURED SALMON WITH CAPER VINAIGRETTE (They had me at the word Bourbon! lol) Feel free to check it out there but come back here so I can break it down for you.
This recipe looked so good and we had most of the ingredients on hand except for the salmon which we purchased from the fresh seafood section of our local supermarket.
I’m used to smoking slabs of beef, pork or a whole chicken. Since this was the first time smoking salmon I was worried about ruining something as delicate as fish.
Using this recipe and a few modifications I needn’t have worried. It came out perfectly and was absolutely delicious. We could taste the salmon, the smoke and the delicious sweet and salty undertones of the brine.
To make it easy, We’ve broken this down into 4 steps
In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, ¼ cup of the bourbon, the lemon zest, orange zest, and black pepper.
In the first part of this step you’ll only use ¼ of the brine mixture. Pour ¼ of the mixture into a 15-by-10-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Place the salmon fillet, skin side down on top of the ¼ brine in the baking dish.
Now use the remaining 3/4: spread and pat the remaining brine mixture over the salmon flesh, covering it entirely.
After applying the brine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 14 hours.
After the 12 – 14 hours is up, remove the salmon from the dish and rinse it under cold water to remove the brown sugar mixture.
Pat dry with paper towels, then place the salmon on aluminum foil.
Brush the top of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon.
Refrigerate the salmon, uncovered, until the surface looks lightly glazed, about 2 hours.
Smoke / Grill
Soak the wood chips for about 20 minutes. We recommend a mild fruit wood like apple or cherry.
Prepare your smoker or grill (indirect heating) to cook the salmon at around 200°.
Place the salmon (still skin side down on foil) in your smoker or on your grill (not directly over the coals). Add your wood chips.
Smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 140° F.
I swear by my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker but you can do this on a regular grill. Just make sure the salmon is not directly over the coals and that the heat is between 200° and 250°.
We also recommend a good wireless thermometer. Here is Amazon’s recommendation and the one I own. 4 different probes allow you to keep track of cooking temperature and the temperature of 3 different meats. It also had alarms for the oven or grill/smoker and for different types of meat. It performs flawlessly.
In a bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Slowly drizzle and whisk in the remaining ½ cup oil until it is emulsified. Set aside.
Tip: make sure you drain and rinse your capers before use or they will be too salty.
Rest the salmon for 5 minutes then serve warm with the vinaigrette.
- Serve as a main dish
- On bagels with cream cheese
- On a cracker with a mild cheese like Danish Havarti
HOT-SMOKED, BOURBON-CURED SALMON WITH CAPER VINAIGRETTE
- 1 salmon fillet with skin, about 3 pounds, pin bones removed
Bourbon Cure / Brine
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon bourbon divided
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh orange zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons capers drained, rinsed and chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bourbon Cure / Brine
- In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, ¼ cup of the bourbon, the lemon zest, orange zest, and black pepper. Pour about one-quarter of the mixture into a 15-by-10-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
- Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, in the baking dish. Spread and pat the remaining brown sugar mixture over the salmon flesh, covering it entirely.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 14 hours.
Prepare for Smoking
- Remove the salmon from the dish. Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove the brown sugar mixture. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the salmon on a large baking sheet. Brush the top of the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon.
- Refrigerate the salmon, uncovered, until the surface looks lightly glazed, about 2 hours.
Smoking the Salmon
- If using wood chips, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes (no need to soak wood chunks).
- Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over very low heat (200° to 250°F).
- Add the wood chips; When the wood begins to smoke, place the salmon fillet, skin side down, over indirect very low heat. (We put the salmon on aluminum foil.)
- Smoke it until the internal temperature reaches 140° F.
- in a small bowl whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Slowly drizzle and whisk in the remaining ½ cup oil until it is emulsified. Set aside.
- Remove the salmon from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes.
- Serve the salmon warm with the vinaigrette.
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