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Confessions of a Smoker

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On: Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 7:49AM | By: Clay Ritchings


All my life people have called certain fish that are neither a sport fish nor important food fish “Garbage fish”, “rough fish”, or worse. I used to bow fish for Carp in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, which is a blast all by itself, but for all the disrespect that species like Carp and Suckers get, they can turn into something strangely addictive after an introduction to a smoker.

I think my affinity for smoked fish started when my Dad brought home some Smoked Whiting for us to eat as an appetizer before dinner. This was a locally caught and locally smoked fish bought from a Fish Market near our home. Ever since that day the sights of the caramel colored flesh and the wonderful smell of smoked fish brings on bouts of oral incontinence.

Don’t believe me? Try it…you don’t have to tell anyone.

Secretly catch and fillet a few Carp or other rough fish, making sure to remove the ribs. Rinse fillets thoroughly and coat each fillet with generous portions of kosher salt and lay them skin-side-down on a glass baking plate (do not use metal). Cover them and place them in the fridge overnight.

After the fillets have sat overnight, take them out and rinse them thoroughly to remove the salt. Stack them flesh side down on some paper towels to dry for about an hour.

Finally place the fillets in a smoker; I use a Green Egg, but almost any smoker that can keep a low even heat for several hours will work. The inexpensive electric cookers work well for this. Continue smoking until fish is flaky and heated all the way through to at least 165 degrees F. Remember when it comes to low temperature cooking it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Most any kind of wood will work, but you might wish to use woods like alder or fruit woods. Of course you can use mesquite, oak, or whatever your favorite smoke maker is, but you may want to adjust your smoke times so that woods like mesquite will not have a chance to impart too bitter a taste, but I recommend using it sparingly.

On a final note, I would like to point out that not only does smoked fish make a great meal or appetizer; it also makes a great ingredient. Try taking the meat from a smoked trout or similar fish and blend it with some cream cheese, garlic, salt and pepper, and you suddenly have a great spread for crackers. It goes great with a nice craft brewed dark beer. Many recipes call for smoked fish, from soups to salads to main courses. With the knowledge of fish smoking under your belt you will be able to make these dishes even better with home-smoked fish.

Now when your buddies come over, share some with a pint of good beer and get ready to field the questions, get ready to come clean, and then see if they still want to call them “garbage fish”.


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