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Pacific Northwest style 'smoked' salmon

On a vacation to Cape Flattery, WA, this summer, we passed a sign saying "Take Home Fish". Since we were on the hunt for smoked salmon anyway, we stopped immediately, and found this Native American gentleman selling smoked salmon out of a shed behind his house.  The setting was rustic, the presentation was minimal, and the packaging was two paper plates. For real. The salmon was literally the best fish I've ever eaten, and I've eaten mountains of fish, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it might be one of best things, fish or otherwise, I've ever put in my mouth. It was perfect at the first bite, and the next day when I still had some left in the hotel room, it came with me and I ate it .. cold...all day long. And the last bite was also perfect.

So, knowing that I planned to use our BGE to try this at home, I smugly didn't ask any questions assuming the Egg could handle this task easily. I was wrong. I did as much research as I could, looking up "Take Home Fish" and easily finding the guy's website and newspaper articles written about this legendary fish, and in a video feature he straight up said, "I've been doing this for a long time; you'll never make fish as good as this." which of course made me more determined to get it right.

I tried 3 different ways, ruining each piece of fish and I was VERY frustrated. We attended a Big Green Egg sales meet and greet at a furniture store locally and asked the sales man what HE suggested. He was busy cooking wings on the ENORMOUS XXL, but he asked me, "have you tried a Himalayan Salt Block?"

So, I came to this forum and looked up salt block advice and did a bunch more research. Then, I tried again, and NAILED IT.

Here's what I did:

  • First, your fish should be fresh. Wild caught is better, farm raised is fine, the fattier the better.
  •  I gave up using a commercial dry rub because everything is too salty, so I prepare my own rub using 
  • You don't need much, and taste it before you put it on the fish!!!! If it's too salty or too sweet etc, throw some away and add the ingredients that it needs more of. The salt bock doesn't provide salt as flavoring to the food to any significant degree, so don't worry about that factor when you taste the rub.
  • The Native American man uses green Alder wood sticks which I don't have access to. I found that alder wood chips on the coals, and even leftover hickory chunks in the pile from yesterday's pork ribs provided a similarly delicious flavor.
  • I got my Himalayan salt block from Williams Sonoma because the price seemed reasonable and they have a good return policy in the event something went wrong.

  • I set up the Egg without the digiQ controller because it's not strictly necessary for such a quick and hot cooking set up.
  •  I leave the bottom vent 3/4 of the way open, the top vent 3/4 open as well.
  • I use the platesetter and the grill grid thing, with the salt block on top of the grid. I don't season the salt block or clean it since it doesn't seem necessary, either. 
  • My goal is to get the pit of the Egg pretty hot which brings the surface of the block to a really nice medium high bordering on high heat. When I place the fish filets on the block, they sizzle nicely.

  • Then I set a timer for 10 minutes, and then go out to check for doneness by placing a fork [the corner of the spatula worked fine too] into the fat part of the filet, and giving a slight twist. If you like your fish rare, you should check after about 7 minutes. The top of the fish turns a shiny, reddish brown color, with a slightly crispy crust, and you might see a wee bit of cracking with a bit of fish fat oozing in the crack. 

The wood-smoke flavor and fish go together in a way that feels primal. And then because I've bought enough to do this, the next day I make smoked salmon mousse in the food processor in about 5 minutes flat and relive the glory but with cream cheese added lol