Hello Thurston, Grays Harbor, Mason and Lewis Counties! Just another heads up on some talks/readings I’m going to give as part of Closer to the Ground being selected for the Timberland Reads Together program. I think these are going to be a lot of fun:
Tumwater Library, 6:00pm Wednesday, October 1st.
Aberdeen Timberland Library, 2:00pm, Thursday, October 2nd.
Belfair Timberland Library, 6:30pm, Thursday, October 2nd.
Centralia Timberland Library, 2:30pm, Saturday, October 4th.
I will be talking, reading, showing a little slideshow, answering questions and signing books. Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in person. Come on out! Hope you are all well.
As I may have mentioned in the previous post, our one-day Grays Harbor marathon was motivated by food. Smarty’s amazing cold-smoked salmon, to be exact. The batch we tasted (and loved) last week was his first shot at a 100-year-old family recipe from the East Coast. But there were still some tweaks to be made and experimental ideas to check out in a quest to make something awesome even better. Only time will tell if we were successful.
The shot above shows the fillets laid out on rock salt after a quick treatment with brandy, of all things. Not sure what the brandy’s function is, but my guess is that alcohol does something to the texture or perhaps it’s purely to kill bacteria. In any event, we stuck to that part of the recipe. Later, we covered the fillets in a mix of salt and brown sugar, and left them to dry for several days.
Cold-smoked salmon, or lox, is tough to do well. Since the fish isn’t cooked, you’re relying on salt, sugar, air drying and cool smoke to cure the meat and create that silky texture and rich flavor. Timing for each step is everything. And since I haven’t ever done it before, this is a full-on learning experience. Smarty has the smoke going now in a new wood box he built just for this process, and I’m stoked to check in on it. Patience is key; we started the process on Sunday and I think it’s going to be done Saturday. I can hardly wait.
It started like it always seems to, with dinner at Smarty’s. There we were, innocently chomping away at his recent batch of cold-smoked salmon, when Smarty says, “Heard it’s been pretty good down in the Harbor…three fish limit. We should go.” And I immediately think, Man, long way to go for one day, and, I don’t think the tide’s right, and, the weather looks lousy…
A few more bites of the savory, silky, cold-smoked salmon and a lightbulb goes off in my head. “Can we make another batch of this stuff if we go?”
Next thing I know, we’re two-and-a-half hours from home, launching the boat at a sketchy ramp on a low tide, in weather like you see above…and I’m stoked.
Got to spend the day with a couple of good buddies and the best dog in the world, Honey, pictured here. Yes, it was a long way to go for one day. Yes, the tide wasn’t quite right. And yes, the weather sucked. But we found fish, had a ton of fun, and late in the day, the sun even came out. Better yet, that batch of delicious cold-smoked is already in progress. Thanks, Smarty.
Why the long faces? We’re down to the very last of our most recent batch of delicious salmon caviar. An entire quart of eggs gone in less than two weeks! But boy, was it good while it lasted. I love salmon and all the different ways we prepare it, but I’m really starting to think that ikura is my favorite. Even more than crisp, melt-in-your-mouth salt-broiled shioyaki steaks? Or savory, fat-dripping hot-smoked belly strips? Or Smarty’s awesome cold-smoked lox? Or salmon-salad sandwiches on whole-wheat sourdough garlic-Parmesan toast? Hmmmm…I don’t know. But it’s close.
Thankfully, we still have a few more weeks of primetime salmon season left. The kings are pretty much done, but silvers have yet to peak in the Sound and coastal bays. Time to get after it!
It may be a long way from the bounty of enormous coho and pristine scenery the kids and I experienced in BC this summer, but I had a fantastic morning with good friends Scott and Travis here on our local waters. Lots of bait on the surface, seals, sea lions, porpoises, birds…and plenty of fish. Good company, too. With everyone having their own boats, it’s not often we all fish together these days. Thanks, Scott, for organizing. It was a reminder of how much fun it is to fish with friends, and that I need to commit to making it happen more frequently.
Box was full early enough to clean the boat, grab an awesome Grub Hut burger and still make it home in time to watch the ‘Hawks game. Now that’s a good day! (Would have been perfect if only the ‘Hawks had come through…)
More importantly, it gives us the fixin’s for one of Skyla’s favorite ways to cook salmon: Whole fillets wrapped in foil with butter, crushed garlic, sea salt and dill. These smaller silvers are perfect for this prep. We’re already looking forward to dinner tomorrow night.