This recipe uses a charcoal grill and hickory wood chips to smoke the salmon, and the results are splendid. No fancy smoker needed, and the smoky flavor is just strong enough to shine through without being too overpowering for the salmon. The fresh dill sauce was a hit at our house, and I'll surely find more ways to use it in other meals. Confession: I forgot to put the sugar/seasoning mixture on the salmon the night before, so mine only had an hour or two for the flavors to soak into the fish, and ours turned out great, so don't feel bad if you didn't plan ahead.
Smoked Salmon with Fresh Dill Sauce
Credit: Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 pounds King salmon fillets, skin on (whole or cut into serving pieces)
3 cups wood chips such as oak, hickory, or mesquite (We used hickory...Mesquite seems like it would be too strong, in my opinion.)
1 flat, disposable foil pan
Fresh Dill Sauce, for serving (Recipe follows)
~The night before serving, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons salt, the peppercorns, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Place the salmon fillets skin-side-down in a large glass dish. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the salmon. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
~At least 1 ½ hours before you plan to cook the salmon, soak the wood chips in water. Now is also a good time to make the fresh dill sauce and place it in the refrigerator until ready to serve (Recipe follows.)
~Thirty minutes before you're ready to cook, heat the charcoal. (We use a charcoal chimney to light the coals-works wonderfully.) If not using a chimney, place a double layer of coals on one side of the grill, light them, and allow them to burn until the coals are gray on the outside. Sprinkle half of the soaked wood chips on the hot coals (you will see lots of smoke). On the other side of the grill, place the foil pan and pour in 1 cup of water. Place the cooking grate over the coals and the pan.
~Scrape most of the sugar mixture off the salmon and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt. Place the salmon skin-side-down on the side of the grill directly over the foil pan (NOT THE COALS). Put the lid on the frill, making sure the top and bottom vents are open. Smoke the salmon for 10 minutes.
~Add the remaining wood chips directly on the coals and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes (ours only needed 5), depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it's firm to the touch and barely cooked. Don't overcook the salmon or it will be dry!
~ Transfer the salmon to a clean platter and immediately cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the skin, if desire, and serve hot with the Fresh Dill Sauce. Enjoy!
Fresh Dill Sauce
makes 2 cups
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
½ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
½ cup minced fresh dill
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup seeded, grated hothouse cucumber
~Place the mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, scallions, dill, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
~ Puree for a few seconds, until well-mixed. Add the cucumber and puree for another few seconds, until combined.Pour into a container and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve and Enjoy!