This perennial favorite as an appetizer, a snack or a lunch works with any fish, from flounder to striped bass. The trick is proper brining and cooling of the fish after smoking. Cover the fish as soon as it’s out of the smoker to prevent drying out as it cools. The spread base offers endless options for seasoning according to your preferences.
- 1⁄2 cup salt
- 5 cups water
- 2 pounds cubed fish
- Equal parts mayonnaise, crème fraiche and cream cheese
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- Shallots, chopped
- Chives, tarragon and dill, to taste
- Old Bay, Everglades Seasoning, or similar seasoning mix
- Splash of hot sauce
- Dissolve salt in the water to make a 10 percent brining solution.
- Pour the solution over the fish until it’s submerged and let sit for one hour in the refrigerator.
- Remove the fish, pat dry on paper towels, place on a rack and refrigerate (uncovered) overnight. This develops a tacky surface that will hold the smoke.
- Soak a handful of wood chips — apple or any soft wood — in water for 20 minutes.
- Heat the Big Green Egg or smoker grill to 200 degrees and put the wood chips on the charcoal, or on the heat source in a gas grill.
- Place the rack with the fish on the cooking surface and smoke for 10 to 20 minutes, until it just begins to flake easily and is barely done.
- Remove the fish from the grill, cover at once, and then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.
- Whisk mayo, crème fraiche and cream cheese together. Add shallots, lemon juice and zest, herbs and seasoning, all to taste. Don’t add salt, as the fish is already brined.
- Flake the cooled fish into the base by hand, combine well with a spatula, adjust seasonings to taste and chill.
- Serve with pumpernickel toast thins, crackers, pickles or pickled vegetables.