Land of Leftovers

When the weather is cold and dreary, I sometimes long for smoked salmon. With the frigid temperatures, however, you're not likely to see me setting up my smoker and monitoring it in my mittens. Of course, I could go to the store and purchase some, but it's terribly expensive and good flavor is hard to come by.

So I smoke some fillets on my stovetop!

That's right, you can smoke salmon -- or other fish -- in small batches on your stovetop. It takes a little careful preparation and some creativity, but it does the trick for me when the craving hits.

You begin with a heavy skillet -- cast iron or stainless steel -- and cover the inside with heavy duty aluminum foil. Don't use a nonstick pan or you will ruin the cooking surface! Then you place a semi-moist mixture of any number of ingredients (loose tea, uncooked rice, onions, orange peel, strained berry pulp, among others) into the bottom of the pan, place a steamer tray over it and carefully lay the salmon fillets on the tray. A tight covering of aluminum foil is added to the top of the pan to prevent the smoke from escaping and the entire assembly is placed over medium heat and cooked for about 25 minutes. The method takes a little time and planning, but it's easy and the results are wonderful.

Once you've got some smoked salmon fillets, it's easy to take it a step further and incorporate it into delicious appetizers and meals. Coarsely flaked, it makes a wonderful and unusual filling for soft-shelled tacos. A finer flake will be right at home in a delicately-sauced pasta dish. If you chop it fine and combine it with a little mascarpone cheese and chives, it makes a wonderful filling for stuffed mushrooms or other elegant appetizers. The possibilities are truly endless.

Feel free to try this month's selection of recipes as is or add some touches of your own. I also encourage you to share your leftover recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Stovetop Smoked Salmon

The smoking medium presented in this recipe is made from readily available ingredients. However, the best results I've ever gotten used a smoking medium of loose tea, dry rice and the pulp from fresh crushed mulberries. If you've got mulberries on hand, I'd highly recommend trying it.
  • 2 lbs. salmon fillets, skinned
  • 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce -- choose your favorite variety
  • 1/3 c. coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. loose black tea
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. uncooked rice
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh orange peel

Prepare the fish and cut some shallow slashes on one side of the fillets. Put them in a shallow dish -- cut sides down -- and add the teriyaki sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight).

To smoke the fish, line a heavy skillet with aluminum foil. Do not use a nonstick skillet! Mix the remaining ingredients together and spread the mixture on the foil in the pan.

Place a steamer tray over the smoking medium and place the salmon on top of it. Tightly cover the skillet with aluminum foil and the lid. The aluminum foil will keep the smoke and heat in the pan. Place the pan over medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

To clean up, simply gather the cooled aluminum foil with the smoking medium and toss it in the garbage.

  • Yields: 4 servings or enough for the recipes below
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Smoked Salmon with Creamy Pasta

A simple creamy sauce for this pasta is made using evaporated milk, cornstarch and some special fresh herbs. Grilled chicken can also be bias-sliced and arranged on top of the pasta instead of the salmon.
  • 16 oz. dried fettucine
  • 1 12 oz. can evaporated milk -- I use a fat free variety
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 2 oz. grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 c. chopped chives
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2 T. chopped basil
  • 2 servings smoked salmon, flaked -- from the recipe above

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.

Meanwhile, pour the evaporated milk into a small saucepan and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Toss the cornstarch, cheese, salt and pepper together. Add to the evaporated milk and stir until the cheese melts and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the herbs and salmon. Toss with the drained pasta and serve immediately. Garnish with additional chopped parsley if desired.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Smoked Salmon Soft Tacos

To keep the flour tortillas from breaking, warm them briefly in the microwave before serving. If they are still brittle, spray them lightly with water before microwaving them again.
  • 1/2 c. black beans
  • 1/2 c. corn
  • 1/4 c. sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c. diced plum tomato
  • 1 T. diced red pepper
  • 1 tsp. taco seasoning
  • 4 flour tortillas, warmed
  • 2 servings smoked salmon, flaked -- from the recipe above

Combine the beans, corn, onions, tomato, pepper and taco seasoning in a small bowl. Allow to macerate for 10 minutes.

To assemble the tacos, spoon equal amounts of the bean mixture into each of the flour tortillas. Evenly divide the salmon among the tacos and serve with spanish rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes