Another year is officially in the books, and the memories will be long for this world as we rekindle lost friendships and nurture new ones. The lasting impression that the year will have on our lives is just another piece that forms us as humans and allows us to be a part of the bigger experience. As we sit around the New Year’s table eating a simple, but time-intensive, homemade smoked fish dip, we talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, laughing and sometimes getting a touch sentimental.
As I welcome the new year, I realize that there are so many things that I want to do for and with my friends and family. Finally getting our passports shored up, I now need to find someone who is good at cheap fare alerts through the various sites, so that we can set up my phone and just up-and-run at a moment’s notice. I’m learning that a flight to the UK or other lovely places on our planet can cost as little as a trip to Des Moines, if you are willing to pack your bags in a pinch.
The last time that I was in California may have been the last time that I wrote about wanderlust. I’m not sure. Either way, the new year always rekindles my love for travel, and luckily my kids take after me and their mother, and often my “itch” starts with the west coast.
Having lived in Southern California for 3 1/2 years, I learned that the seasons don’t exist. There are no snowy months in San Diego, or the deep auburn autumn leaves of the Northeast. No, the seasons were pretty much hot, chilly and warm.
I came back to the east coast to seasons and I love them. And I notice as I write that this time of year spawns a gut-wrenching wanderlust in me; a deep desire to just get out of here and go on to other locales. The cold isn’t the issue, as I would love nothing more than to be in the Swiss Alps. Skiing down the slopes (I don’t know how to ski, so I’m hoping that there are bunny slopes in Switzerland) right into the lodge with burning legs and a stiff back, I would be greeted by a Wassel or other local hot beverage to reinvigorate my aching, aging body.
No, I just want to travel and give that experience to my children. And as we go from continent to continent, I will compare my food to that of chefs around the globe. And my fish dip will always come out on top; of that I have no doubt.
Smoked Bluefish Crustini
Makes about 2 pounds
1 Smoked bluefish filet (recipe follows)
1 cup (or as needed), mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Gherkins, minced
1 Shallot, finely minced
Kosher salt, as needed
Ground black pepper, as needed
Crustini or crackers, as needed
Herb oil or herbs for garnish
- Remove skin and blood line. If it’s not white flesh, remove it. This will greatly reduce any lingering fishy taste
- Remove pin bones and mash the fish with your hands, and make it as you would a simple tuna salad
- When the salad is at a consistency that you like, season and keep chilled until ready to use
- You can serve the dip/salad in a bowl with bread, crustini and crackers on the side, or you can plate them up like I have in the picture above. Either way is a win-win
Smoked Bluefish Filet
per gallon of brine
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup Brown sugar
3 Lemons, halved
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 2-inch pieces rosemary
stems from 1 bunch of parsley
12 cloves garlic, smashed
3 Tbsp. Black peppercorns
3 Tbsp. Paprika
3 Tbsp. Dried oregano
2 Tbsp. Fennel seed
3 Bay leaves, fresh if possible
- Combine all ingredients, making enough to cover the fish filets
- Allow to sit under refrigeration for at least four hours. This will pull blood out of the filets, as well as tame down the fishy taste of this typically shunned fish
- Remove from the brine, discarding the latter
- Lay the filets flat on drain racks if you have them and pat dry
- Allow to sit uncovered in the icebox for as long as 48 hours. This drying process will create the pellicle, a tacky surface which will allow the chemicals in the smoke to adhere to the product
- This fish does best with a hot smoke, so set up your smoker with the blend of your choosing. Personally, since bluefish has such a bold taste, it will stand up to my standard blend, which is cherry, hickory, apple and alder.
- Smoke the fish per your smoker’s manufacturer’s instructions until the fish is cooked through. Typically, I’ll turn the smoker off and allow the fish to rest in there for about 30 minutes
- Remove from the smoker and once again allow it to air out in the refrigerator. This will get rid of any acrid nuances that build up in the fish
- Keep the fish chilled, and if you have a food saver or vacuum, bag the fish and freeze. This will last for a very long time if vacuum packed and frozen.