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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


The Clash, Minor Threat, and smoked fish

There was something very special and exciting about growing up in the mid-80s in Annapolis. I played piano as a kid, and studied at Peabody Prep for a few years, but once I realized that I was never destined to play Carnegie Hall (I hated all of those Czerny exercises and the hours of concentration that a career in serious music would entail), I turned to a louder, faster and crazier music.
Hardly will you find a better time to have been in the scene in the Annapolis/Baltimore/DC triangle.  We were second generation punks, and while we relished tunes by The Stooges, Sex Pistols, The Clash and the like, our standbys were bands such as Minor Threat, Government Issue, Bad Brains, Black Flag, SOA, Teen Idles et al. Local bands included The Spastic Rats, The Hated and more, and we regularly attended concerts at skating rinks, local community colleges or bars in town or in DC.  
The music was intentionally loud, fierce and disruptive. Later turning our interests to SoCal-style bands such as Social Distortion, we were in our heyday, touring as much of the mid-Atlantic as we could to soak in another set by The Ramones, The Dickies or Bad Religion. If nothing else, they were wild times and I’m sure that my parents must have been having fits about it. In hindsight, though, my parents had pretty much already hit the road by the time I hit my teen years, so maybe they were blessed not to have known too many of our doings. I guess we’ll never know.
During this time, I was already entrenched in the restaurant scene in Nap Town, having worked at the Chart House, Griffin’s, McGarvey’s, Dimitri’s and Riordan’s so I was used to the late nights and the mayhem. The music just seemed to fit right in with the lifestyle at the time.
It was also around this time that I was introduced to Southern Pride Smokers at Key West Shipping Company, a unique if nothing else restaurant perched on the second floor at the base of Main Street.  We smoked so much food in that place, it was staggering. And the three fish that we smoked more than any were trout, salmon and bluefish. Thirty-some years ago, not too much good food (note that I wrote ‘good’) was coming out of bags and freezer boxes, so just about everything was from scratch. There simply was no substitute.
The brine that I learned to make then is the basis for what I do now, and it’s a standard ratio of one gallon of water to one cup of salt.  From there, you can throw in sugar, herbs, spices, fruits and the kitchen sink if you like. That’s up to you. But just make sure that you start with the ratio and go from there. Pay attention to the brining times, and do some research and experimentation as many grillers, smokers and BBQ champs vary greatly in opinion. Just try a batch, and try again if it’s not perfect. If it happens to be perfect, for god’s sake write it down.
Now that I’m shortly approaching 50 (I still have one more year), I get odd looks as I take my own kids to shows in bars, concert halls and arenas in the region. Every year they get one big concert for straight-A’s and then we usually have a show every month or so thrown in for good measure. But, my sweet little ones like it when I don’t stay with them. I’m still Dad, and that can never be cool.
I relish in wearing my 9:30 Club lanyard at work and enjoy a good, youthful t-shirt; I find them all good for the soul. But more than anything, I like that they, just like this smoked salmon, can transport me back thirty-five years as though it were yesterday.
Smoked Salmon
for 2 sides of salmon
2 sides fresh salmon, skin-on
1 gallon brine (recipe follows)
Wood chips (cedar and alder are great)

1. Combine all ingredients for the brine, and submerge salmon completely
2. Refrigerate and allow to brine (notice that it’s a noun and a verb; cool word) for no more than 6 hours. You can go longer with a dry rub, but if you go too long with a brine, you will end up with cured salmon as opposed to smoked
3. Remove from brine and pat dry. Air on a rack, refrigerated overnight or for at least four or five hours until a pellicle or tacky surface forms
4. Preheat your smoker and smoke the salmon using whichever chips or chunks your heart desires.  Mind your wood (hickory, mesquite et al since they can overpower the fish)
5. When smoked, retire to the refrigerator to cool and air out (do not cover). The fish typically tastes acrid at this point. Airing it out will mellow the flavors and get rid of the “cigarette” taste
6. When cool, serve with fresh fruit, horseradish sauce, chopped onions, hardboiled eggs or whatever suits your fancy
makes a little over 1 gallon
1 gallon water
1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 orange, halved
1 lemon, halved

Handful of herbs, such as dill, parsley, thyme (not too much thyme, though)
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1. Combine all ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved
2. Set aside until ready to use