By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
With a glass of chardonnay in one hand and a smoked bluefish crustini in another, I reflect on what has happened in the last two years.
Another year is just about to be over and the unique and sometimes hard-to-believe memories will be long for this world as we anxiously await the challenges of the coming year.
At a time when many of us thought that we had seen the decline of this blasted pandemic, another more infectious strain pops its ugly little head up. Will the madness never end?
Tonight, we sat laughing around a holiday table snacking on cookies and homemade hors d’oeuvres, our conversation naturally taking on the good and the concerning, sometimes getting a touch sentimental.
As we welcome the new year, I realize that there are so many things that I want to do for and with my friends and family. There is talk (by my 16-year old) of a week in Tokyo, and even more discussion about another trip to Central America.
I would still love to visit Europe again, but times could be tighter in 2022 than they were in 2020. It is time to start squirreling away the survival slush fund, and who knows what new restrictions will be in-place worldwide? I don’t think travel will be the norm for a while.
I was in California about 14 years ago, and I remember plain as day sitting in my hotel room near the Culinary Institute typing away about wanderlust. The holidays always seem to rekindle a similar love for travel, and as my kids take after me and their mother, it is a normal topic of discussion.
Still fascinated by the notion that Napa Valley is simply Delmarva with mountains and grapes instead of soy and wide-open fields, we discuss a week or two of visiting ranches, vineyards and restaurants.
I notice as I write that this time of year spawns a wanderlust in me that is difficult to put into words — a deep desire to get out of here. 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 another toasty beverage.
And as much as I want to travel and give that experience to my children, traversing continents and states, I am just as content to be home, as long as I’m with family. Travel will be a thing again, soon, and perhaps next year’s holiday article will be written from a land afar. Time will tell.
Smoked Bluefish Crustini
Makes about 2 pounds
1 ea. Smoked bluefish filet (recipe follows)
1 c. (or as needed), mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Gherkins, minced
1 ea. Shallot, finely minced
Kosher salt, as needed
Ground black pepper, as needed
Crustini or crackers, as needed
Herb oil or herbs for garnish
1. Remove skin and blood line. If it’s not white flesh, remove it. This will greatly reduce any lingering fishy taste.
2. Remove pin bones and mash the fish with your hands, and make it as you would a simple tuna salad.
3. When the salad is at a consistency that you like, season and keep chilled until ready to use.
4. 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 c. Kosher salt
1/2 c. Brown sugar
3 ea. 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 ea. Bay leaves, fresh if possible
1. Combine all ingredients, making enough to cover the fish filets.
2. Allow to sit under refrigeration for at least four hours. This will pull blood out of the filets, as well as tame the fishy taste.
3. Remove from the brine, discarding the latter.
4. Lay the filets flat on drain racks if you have them and pat dry.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts at
Wor-Wic Community College and owner of
boxcar40 and boxcar on main.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com; www.boxcaronmain.com