A friend of my sister is planning a trip to Ireland. As we lived there for a year, she asked for recommendations.
After a long meander down memory lane I decided one of the things I missed most was riding our bikes to Great Island (Cobh) to get smoked salmon. We would take the car ferry across the harbour, ride to the house a neighbor had told us about, go around the back to the garage and buy our salmon, hand sliced on the spot, then wrapped in butcher paper for the ride home. It was a cash transaction.
That led my even further back in time – to the first time I ate smoked salmon.
I started writing about it…. then realized I already had (Hate it when that happens!)
So, this is a reprint….
The first time I had smoked salmon was the longest lunch of my life.
I'd grown up eating smoked fish – smoked carp, actually.
I loved it. Smoked carp is a bit on the fatty side, but it was a local specialty.
The kind of local specialty one bought from scruffy looking old guys who carried it around wrapped in brown paper…. Usually selling it in the local bars, but a street corner would work in a pinch.
They caught the fish and smoked it themselves.
It was hot-smoked fish, meaning that the fish was cooked with hot smoke and had the appearance and texture of cooked fish. The most common type of smoked salmon sold in US supermarkets is hot-smoked. (Lox is cold-smoked)
The first time I had 'proper' smoked salmon was at this business lunch in London. The people we were with had been telling us all morning that the restaurant we we're having lunch at had the 'best smoked salmon in the City'.
Naturally, I had to order it.
Naturally, I assumed I knew what I would be eating and assumed I would love it.
To say I was surprised when the waiter placed a plate of paper-thin, glistening, cold-smoked salmon in front of me would be an understatement.
Cold-smoked fish is smoked at a much lower temperature so is not 'cooked'. It closely resembles raw fish.
The entire plate was covered with the salmon. The only accompaniment was a lemon wedge and a tiny bit of buttered bread.
I took a bite.
All I could think was that I was eating raw fish.
And that I didn't want to be eating raw fish.
Did I mention that this was my first trip abroad?
Did I mention that this was a rather important business meeting?
I ate the salmon.
All of it.
It took forever – or, at least, seemed like it did at the time.
Funny thing was….. by the time I ate the last bite I rather liked it.
I ordered it again that night for dinner.
I did like it!
And to think – had I not been forced to eat that entire plate of salmon (good manners required I eat it all) I would probably have missed out on what is now one of my most favorite foods.
My apologies to the judges on one of those Food Network shows we get to watch now for putting cheese with fish.
In order not to offend you further, I will eat this all myself.
A mix of fresh and smoked salmon gives a lot of flavor to this simple gratin. Simmering the potatoes in milk shortens the baking time.
2 medium potatoes, 10oz (300gr)
1 cup (8oz, 240gr) milk
8oz (250gr) fresh salmon
3 – 4oz (100gr) smoked salmon
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/3 cup (3oz, 900gr) Greek or plain yogurt
1/2 cup (4oz, 120gr) Cheddar cheese, shredded
The potatoes: Thinly slice potatoes. Pour milk into a medium skillet and heat to simmering. Add potatoes, in layers. Cook simmer, uncovered, until potatoes turn translucent, about 15 minutes.
The salmon: Cut fresh salmon into 1" (2.5cm) thick slices. Roughly chop smoked salmon.
To assemble: Remove 1/3 of the potatoes from the milk, arrange in a baking dish. Spread smoked salmon on potatoes. Top with 1/3 potatoes, in a layer. Arrange fresh salmon on potatoes. Top with remaining 1/3 potatoes.
To finish: Add dill, yogurt to milk and stir well. (Milk will be thick from the potatoes) Pour over the top of the gratin. Top with shredded cheese, cover with foil and bake, 400F (200C) for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, until cheese starts to brown. Remove and serve.
In addition to this, for the week of February 25 we have Avocado Cocktail, Braised Chicken with Rice, Linguini Amatriciana, Peppered Pork Tenderloin, Beef and Mushroom Lo Mein….
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