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Smokin’!

Last summer Laurie asked Mark to smoke some tomatoes from her garden. Mark jokingly told her to send along 20 pounds of tomatoes. She took him at his word.

When it comes to smoking, my honey is the king — at least in my book. He has smoked tomatoes, which we freeze and mince up and toss into tried-and-true recipes, giving them a new and unique flavor (smoked-tomato caponata, for instance). He smokes garlic, which we’ve added to most everything savory. He has cold-smoked oysters and cheeses. He’s smoked salt, pepper and paprika.

It should go without saying that he’s a master at meats, but one of my favorites is his smoked salmon. He doesn’t even like salmon (to which I say, more for me!), and I’m sure it annoys him a bit that I am always asking him to smoke it for me.

However, this past Christmas he gifted me with THE grill — nicknamed the Escalade because it’s huge and incredibly luxurious. Because this is Southern California, I started using it a couple days after Christmas (yes, it was raining, but I wouldn’t let a little thing like that stop me). So now my sweetie is teaching me how to smoke, and, believe me, it’s way easier than I thought. I don’t have his fancy smoker, but my grill can do everything his does — and so can yours, with a little help.

I have a flat tray with multiple holes in it, purchased at Barbeques Galore along with something called a smoke box. The box is made of sturdy metal and has a hinged cover full of holes, and you fill it with damp wood chips.

My slightly used smoker box

Place the chip-filled box to the left side of your grill and turn on that burner (or two burners). You can buy wood chips at Lowes, Home Depot or any of the barbecue-supply stores (Laurie once found hickory chips at the 99 Cent store–you know how the Party Know-It-Alls love a bargain). Salmon lends itself to alder or birch but hickory works just as well.

I started with a side of Costco line-caught salmon. I rinsed it, dried it and brushed it with olive oil. Then I sprinkled it with Montreal seasoning, rubbing it in on both sides of my fish (Emeril’s rub works great too). Place the salmon on the flat tray and then place your tray on the opposite side of the grill from the smoke box. Do not turn on the burners under or near the fish. My grill has a thermometer, which I maintain at 200 degrees to smoke salmon. If your grill doesn’t have an actual thermometer, purchase an oven thermometer because keeping the heat low is crucial. The heat from the wood chip/smoke side will float over the salmon and cook it in less than an hour.
Mine came out buttery and smokey and was perfect for my smoked-salmon sandwiches for tea (and Norah’s breakfast).

I’m planning on smoking again this Wednesday – I’ll vacuum-pack a side of smoked salmon and take it along on our annual spring break. I will serve it with homemade pasta in light lemon cream sauce. It’s every bit as good as it sounds.

Hazel

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