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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Smoked salmon for breakfast, lunch or dinner

This morning I fixed smoked salmon and eggs for my oldest son, Colin, as a Father's Day breakfast. His wife and children won't eat it, so they got eggs scrambled in the drippings of sausage. But Colin and I enjoyed a feast (one we'd both liked in Scotland). Colin grew up on smoked salmon, and his dad used to fix lox and eggs (more about the difference in a minute). I embroider on it by adding tomato and green onion, which he methodically picked out. He wanted the salmon and eggs to be the "main event."

Lox and eggs
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. lox chopped
6 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
Optional: diced tomato and chopped scallion
If using scallion, saute in butter. Add salmon and tomato. Add eggs. Stir and cook until desired consistency.

Once when Colin's wife, Lisa, was here alone we went to the deli for breakfast, and she ordered salami and eggs, expecting to get salami on the side next to her eggs. What she got was a variation on lox and eggs, with chopped salami substituting for the lox. But I digress.
On a trip several years ago to the Pacific Northwest, I ordered smoked salmon and did not get the moist, thin, smoked fish I anticipated. I got cooked salmon, in thick pieces, with a strong smoky flavor. I learned the difference between hot-smoked and cold-smoked. Hot smoked, sometimes called kippered salmon, is a chunk, steak or filet, that has been mildly brined and smoked over a hot fire. It's usually Chinook salmon and is common in the Northwest. I like Chinook better not smoked, but that's another story--and probably another post. What we get from the UK and other European countries is cold-smoked--brined and cooked longer over a lower fire. If it's Atlantic salmon, it may be called Nova Scotia or Scottish smoked salmon or some other designation, usually geographic. Cold-smoked Pacific salmon is usually just called smoked salmon. Lox is salmon brined with a bit of sugar in the brine--this is prized in the Jewish American community, especially with cream cheese and bagels on Sunday mornings--or at least that was our family tradition when I was married to a Jewish man. Gravlax is Swedish and has been smoked with a salt-sugar-dill brine and cold-smoked. It often comes covered with chopped dill and pepper. These days, smoked salmon, gravlax, lox bits, and even smoked salmon from the UK are available in affordable 4 oz. packs in some grocery stores. Sometimes I keep it on hand all the time.
Obviously, I recommend lox and eggs for breakfast. For lunch, lox and cream cheese makes a great treat, on that bagel mentioned above, though I prefer mine on rye toast. Optional: add sliced tomato and red onion. I also sometimes roll up smoked salmon around small chunks of cream cheese for lunch.
But it's in the evening that smoked salmon, as an appetizer, shines, at least in my estimation. Here are a few of my favorites:
Top ruffle-style potato chips with horseradish-cream cheese and pieces of smoked salmon.

Put smoked salmon, sour cream, chopped fresh dill, chopped shallots and capers on a large platter. Serve with crackers or bread.

Want to go to more trouble? Here's an appetizer spread:
4 oz. pkg of smoked salmon, diced
8 oz. softened cream cheese
scant 1/2 c. sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp. horseradish
salt to taste--remember that smoked salmon is a bit salty to begin with
fresh ground black pepper to taste--I prefer finely ground, because I don't like biting into a chunk of pepper when I'm enjoying the salmon
Beat the cream cheese until smooth and add sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then add salmon.
Serve with crackers or bread--rye or pumpernickel are wonderful accompaniments to smoked salmon. I often look for party rye at the store for this and similar dips.

Here's a cocktail-time variation on my lunchtime roll-ups:
Spread smoked salmon with cream cheese, chopped dill, salt and pepper. Wrap around sticks of hearts of palm and cut into chunks--try to buy the hearts of palm whole in a glass jar and not the cans, which can be seasoned and are often small pieces. Garnish with dill if you want. You don't really need bread for these; they are finger food but a bit messy. Put out plenty of napkins.

Another time I'll post about some things to do with canned salmon. I get mine from the same fishery where I get the tuna, and I love it. But it's harder to get.

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