SMOKE ON THE SALMON
side of Atlantic salmon, cut from an 8-10 pound fish
2-3 tablespoons honey, warmed to make it easier to brush
1/4 cup Kosher salt
3 tablespoons sugar
heavy-duty aluminum foil
2 sheet pans or cookie sheets (lipped pans are best)
1 big-city telephone book or something that weighs about the same
1 electric hot plate
1 30-gallon metal trash can
1 round grill grate that will fit inside aforementioned trash can
2 feet of heavy wire or two wire coat hangers
one small cast iron skillet or heavy duty pie pan
1 disposable pie pan
several handfuls of your favorite hardwood chips
Crimp together 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a sheet
1.5 times longer and 3-4 times wider than the piece of fish. Spread a
single layer of plastic wrap over the foil.
Combine the salt and sugar. Sprinkle a third of the mixture down the
middle of plastic (in the shape of the tranch... that's a fancy word for
"big piece of fish").
Lay the fish on the middle of the plastic wrap and brush with the warm
honey. Top with the remaining salt mix. (By the way, if you want to add a
teaspoon or two of your favorite spice to this mixture -- say, cumin --
that would be fine by me).
Close the plastic up around the fish and crimp the foil so you have a
tight, leak-proof package. Place your armored fish on a cookie sheet,
cover with the second and weigh down with the phone book. Refrigerate the
whole menagerie in the fridge for at least 1 but up to 4 hours.
Unwrap the fish and rinse well. Pat dry, then set under a fan in a
cool, dry place until the surface of the fish no longer looks moist --
about an hour. This step is crucial for smoking because when water soluble
proteins that have been pulled to the surface by the cure dry, they form a
kind of molecular Velcro called a "pellicle" which is very
attractive to the good tasting stuff in smoke.
Speaking of smoke...
Punch a hole in the bottom of the trash can just big enough to snake
the cord of the hot plate through. Set the can upright and place the hot
plate in the bottom. Go ahead and turn the thermostat to medium high, but
don't plug it in yet.
Place the skillet on the hot plate and fill with the chips. Punch a
bunch of holes in the pie tin and turn it upside down on the chips.
Cut the wire or hangers so that you can make four primitive looking
hooks by which you will suspend the grill grate so that it hangs 8 inches
beyond the edge of the can. Spray the grate with no-stick spray.
If you're feeling high-tech, use a large nail to punch a hole in the
lid of the can and insert the probe of a grill thermometer.
Place the fish on the grate, put the lid on the can and plug in the
hot plate. Watch the thermometer. Ideally the temperature inside the can
will hover around 200 degrees. If it rises much higher, the fish may cook
before it has a chance to catch much smoke. I find that medium-high
usually does the trick in summer, but you may need to go with high if in
When the fish reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees, consume
Makes 4 to 6 servings.