There are some smoky times happening here at Weatherby Angler's Smoke House. White swirls of deliciousness mixed with overtones of fresh spices and brown sugar tease the nose and peak any downwind, or nearby, Carnivore's interest.
As smoke billows from the edges of the old Smoker doors it would stir memories of my first experiences with smoked fish. There were a couple of friends who annually fished the Albie bite with me and they would consistently bring a compliment of tasty treats with them. I was very quick to kick the old bag of musty muffins from Dunkin Donuts under the gunnel in shame. The highlight was fresh smoked Salmon from one of the client's Alaskan smokehouse combined with freshly picked local Apples from the other's orchard. This combined with a bit of chill in the air and the world was right. Freshly brewed Kona Coffee and an offshore whiff of a wood stove and I longed for a warm fire, knowing the fishing season was about to come to an end. Note: End of season Fall depression is very common among Guides. Please feed this Guide Key Lime Pie- often. I feel better just thinking about it.
Fall is the ideal time for fireside relaxation and smoking fish, but anytime you can stage a Summer Smoke Fest- very exciting. This year I have nailed it. Surely first place material in a County Fair, if we had one, and worthy of posting as the first Weatherby Angler's Recipe. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
Day 1. First go out catch your Bluefish. Size matters and I recommend an eight to ten pound fish. The key to this is to have first successfully plied the waters fly fishing for Striped Bass, using a fly you tied specifically for this event. This spiritual effort, whether at first light or in the middle of the day, is a gateway to the soon to be enjoyed tasty smoked treats. Bleed the Bluefish immediately and prep the fillets- leaving the skin on.
Ideally your confidence level is such that your specially made brine is ready and waiting for you when you return home, ensuring a fresh catch to Brine world record. The Brine is a very personal experience and having to start somewhere, I searched online for basic guidelines to culinary success and would like to thank them all for their hints in the right direction. That said, once you have seen my efforts below, do the rewarding thing and toss it. Develop your own. Consider this your reference point- and only a start.
Fill your large blender with:
- About 2 Quarts of water from fresh springs in Montana, (or filtered refrigerator water will do).
- 2 fists of Brown Sugar
- 2 more of Sea Salt
- 1/2 a bottle of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 a bottle of Soy Sauce
- Pour in some Maple syrup
- A big pile of Peppercorns
- A bundle of Cilantro and Basil from the garden
- 3 Garlic cloves
- Golf ball size lump of Chili powder
- 2 Dried Cayenne peppers that make your eyes burn
- 1/4 bottle of Cholula's hot sauce (in case your peppers need more heat)
- Zest with lemon peels- cool term for grate
Cover and blend until the soupy mix looks awesome and pour over the fillets in a pan being sure to cover them completely. Leave overnight in the fridge, if possible, unless your too excited then you might have to get by with at least a few hours of the soak.
Day 2. When you’re getting ready to smoke, take the fillets onto the kitchen counter to warm for a while before the action begins and dry with paper towels. Skip the cloth as it smells fishy forever. Kind of like the first Bluefish Artwork I did in the eighties where you paint a fish and role it onto canvas. Stunk so badly I had to throw it out leaving me to believe there must be more to that kind of art.
The Smoker has some cool tricks to the mix. Timing is everything. Light a pile of about six pounds of coals, well soaked with fuel, and allow this to burn until ash covered. While waiting soak half a bag of Mesquite wood chips in water. Once the coals are ready toss handfuls of chips onto them and place the pan of already very hot water above it, if your smoker has this and it likely does. Quickly place the clean grates on their supports and lay the now warm and dry fillets onto them. Now shut the lid, and don't peek, for at least six hours. (Cigars are helpful here as they round out this manly experience). You could even go fishing again, provided you’re not worried about your house burning down, or go shoot some sporting clays. DO NOT PEEK.
Like fresh baked bread, or pie, or sushi on the boat, once you remove the lid your mouth will water and your nostrils will fill with what should be an extremely rewarding smell of your freshly caught and smoked Bluefish. Please let me know if you find great satisfaction in this fresh catch to plate experience. Enjoy!