Thu 14 Apr 2011
I love smoked fish and seafood. Salmon, mackerel, kippers, scallops, prawns, mussels, oysters – they’re all wonderful. I don’t know when my crush started, but smoked seafood is an anytime food for me: a comfort food, a celebratory food, and a delicious snack on a rainy day with a book and a glass of wine.
At culinary school, one of my favorite classes was Garde Manger, where we learned how to make those fancy buffet platters. We students partnered up to make our dishes, and Dan and I made several sides of smoked salmon. It was fascinating to clean and cure the fish to form the pellicle, the protective protein coating that keeps the inside of the fish soft. Then we cold-smoked it for hours, let it rest, and hand-sliced it paper thin. As I recall, not all of the salmon actually made it to the buffet, and my class had a grand midnight feast in the dorm that night.
In England, smoked seafood is a long cherished tradition, especially the wonderful smoked salmon. I fondly remember a visit to a humble restaurant on the coast that was supposed to have amazing smoked seafood. We gazed in delight as the waitress brought tiered trays of herring, mackerel, salmon, scallops, prawns and mussels, with brown bread, butter and lemon wedges. I ate slowly, letting the flavors linger on my tongue. It was one of the best meals of my life.
I still love smoked seafood, and usually have some around the house. Of course, I can’t always afford the fancy stuff, but there are always options. One of my fall backs is smoked salmon spread, just a simple mix of diced smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon juice. But recently I noticed that the grocery store had another of my favorites – smoked herring, known as “Kippers”. Herring is an oily fish like salmon and mackerel, so it is very rich and satisfying, perfect to make into a high flavor impact spread for crackers or toast. While it’s on the budget side of smoked seafood at about $2.00 a can, it’s smoky, rich and tastes much more expensive. And it has those good fish oils that we’re all supposed to eat.
I made Smoked Kipper Pate for my card group, and it was a smashing success, even though one of the members referred to it as “cat food.” Ok, I get it, it’s not pretty, but it’s so delicious that the bowl was wiped clean and people clamored for the recipe. You can use the basic proportions to make any fish spread, so feel free to use whatever you have. Smoked Kippers are very rich, so I added diced celery and a large amount of lemon juice to cut the oil in the fish.
Smoked Kipper Pate
1 can smoked Kippers (herring smoked and packed in canola oil and juice, net weight 6.7 oz)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 inner stalks celery diced very small
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ C mayonnaise
Dash of black pepper
Open the can of Kippers partway and let the liquids drain out. Open the can to take the top off, then take the fish out and let it drain on paper towels.
Skin the fish with the back of a fork and throw the skin away.
Place the fish, celery and lemon juice in a bowl and mash the fish with a fork. I like to leave a few small chunks of fish in the mix for flavor. Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise and pepper and mix it all up. Taste to correct seasonings.
While this pate is good when it’s fresh, it’s better the next day when the flavors have melded, so go ahead and refrigerate it overnight. Serve with crackers or bread as an appetizer or part of a buffet. It’s also excellent as a sandwich filling with sliced cucumbers.
Smoked fish goes with some lovely wines. Try it with a dry Champagne, dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, or even a dry Sherry.