Thursday, July 21, 2011

Smoked Steelhead with Roasted Garlic Sriracha Schmear

I really miss my grill. It was nothing special - a decent Char-Broil propane grill -  but it was mine. It was also apparently a fire hazard on my 8th floor balcony. So, it got replaced by an electric unit that tries hard, but isn't quite the same. No fire, no char, and the grill marks kind of just taste burnt. As you might imagine, I was excited to recently discover some indoor options for smoking food. The good people at Nordic Ware have developed the lovely stovetop smoker to your right, and the better people at Amazon sold it to me at 40% off with free shipping. Imagine a sort of Aluminum dutch oven with a high domed lid, smoking rack, and built in thermometer. Visions of brisket and pork butt have been dancing through my head since I purchased it. And of course, it arrived right in the middle of our Meat Hiatus.

Nordic Ware's Stovetop Smoker
If you've been keeping up, you know that as far my dietary habits go, I am a terrible jew. I'm kind of OK with that. However, I happily embrace a number of our finer culinary contributions to the world; pretty much anything you'd find in a Deli, and of course,  Lox and a Schmear. Proper lox are cured, cold smoked Salmon (frequently from Nova Scotia), and served on a bagel with cream cheese, chopped onions and capers. Truth be told, I've always been partial to hot-smoked fish. Also, I have no clue how to cure and cold smoke salmon properly. So, Meat Hiatus in effect, I went about breaking in the smoker with some Steelhead Trout I had handy.

Pacific Salmonids, Courtesy
Wikimedia Commons
Steelhead (aka Rainbow, depending on its habitat) Trout looks, cooks, and tastes like salmon, but better. According to Professor Wikipedia, Salmon, Trout and Char comprise various species in the same Family, and in fact the Pacific Salmon and Trout are all in the same Genus. If it's been a long time since High School biology, they're kind of like cousins. See, we're fun and educational here at Balls and Pie.

If you're equipped to smoke anything, this is pretty easy. First you need to Brine your fish filets (I used flash frozen fish, but skin-on filets are probably better). I used proportions suggested by the manufacturer - the end product was a touch briny, I'd back off on the salt next time:

2 Steelhead Filets
2 Qt cold water
1/4" cup Brown Sugar
3/4" cup non-iodized Salt (Note: this was too much, I'd cut back by half).

1. Mix Salt and Brown Sugar into the water. You can use warm water and cool before using, too.
2. Add fish, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (up to 24).
3. Remove and rinse.

Before playing with the smoker, I prepared my cream cheese with:
1 small block Philadelphia Cream Cheese (3 oz, I think)
3 Peeled Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil
Sriracha Sauce

1. Preheat your oven (toaster or countertop convection is easiest) to 400 degrees.
2. Drizzle cloves with  Olive Oil(I prepared a whole head, pictured below).
3. Roast for about 15 minutes.
4. Press 3 (or so) cloves into a small bowl or container.
5. Add Cream Cheese and a pinch of Sea Salt, Sriracha (to taste), and mix.

Easy enough, and tasty.

Roasted Garlic!
Ready to Schmear

Then it was time to smoke with:
2 Brined Filets
Sliced Yellow Onions
1 cup water
2 tbsp Applewood chips

1. Add chips to the bottom of the smoker.
2. Place drip pan above the chips, and add water.
3. Place grate and smoker lid, with vent open.
4. Pat fish dry, and pepper to taste. Lightly salt and pepper onions as well.
5. Heat the smoker until smoke (not steam) comes through the vent.
6. Add fish and onions, partially close vent.
7. Smoke for ~1 - 2 hours, maintaining temperature.
8. Remove, and chill.
9. Serve with cream cheese on a bagel.
Brined Steelhead and Onions
Smoked Onions

Smoked Steelhead after 1 hour
On a bagel with schmear,
where it belongs!
I was a little dubious about the smoker and the sawdusty chips recommend, but it did its job well. After the recommended 15 - 25 minutes, the fish was cooked, but didn't taste very smoked. I left one filet in for about an hour, and was much happier with the results. All in all, I was quite pleased everything made for an excellent sandwich. The onions were a surprise - I'd added them as an afterthought, but they were delicous: sweet with a smokey tang, and I ate half of them while waiting for the fish to chill. Now, if I could only get real bagels in Cleveland...


  1. Ah Sriracha, is there anything you don't make better?

  2. I cannot promise that I'll smoke fish, but that schmear sounds too good not to make. I'm sure smoked salmon will find its way into my next shopping cart.