Carol invited us to dinner last night. She was having salmon. She likes it, but her husband does not. He had to work late, so it was the perfect opportunity for her to have a dinner of salmon. It turned out to be relatively easy and absolutely delicious.
The thing that made the dish especially good was that Carol smoked the salmon in her Camerons stove-top smoker. That is definitely a kitchen gadget to have, even if you don’t use it very often. The standard model is a stainless steel pan with collapsible handles and an air-tight lid designed to keep smoke inside the pan and not in the kitchen (It really works.) Inside are a flat tray and a rack. You put a pile of very small wood chips (purchased from Camerons, of course.) in the bottom of the pan, cover with the tray, and arrange the food to be smoked on the rack. Slide the cover nearly but not-quite closed and put the whole contraption over two burners on your range. The heat from the burners should be low to medium–low – enough to get the wood chips smoking but not so hot that the food burns. When the first wisps of smoke begin to come out, push the lid completely closed. There should be no leaks. Then smoke the food for the desired time. In the case of salmon, about 20 minutes should do. Remove from the heat for a few minutes and then remove the lid. You will smell the smoke, but it should not invade the kitchen. Check to make sure the food is cooked to your liking. If not, you can close the lid again and heat for another few minutes.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can accomplish the same thing by basting the salmon with a mixture of ½ teaspoon liquid smoke and 2 teaspoons soy sauce before broiling in the oven.
Smoked Salmon Niçoise
- 1 pound salmon filet, bones removed
- 4 cups lettuce cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced (see post on how to peel a hard-boiled egg)
- 8 small new potatoes, boiled, chilled, and cut into 1½ inch chunks
- 2 cups green beans, cut in 2 inch lengths, blanched, cooked, and chilled
- 20 pitted black olives
- 4 teaspoons drained capers
- 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- salt and pepper to taste
- homemade vinaigrette or your favorite bottled salad dressing
- Pat the salmon dry and place in the smoker. Smoke according to instructions with the smoker.
- In the meantime, arrange the lettuce in the middle of each of 4 plates.
- Arrange the sliced eggs, potatoes, beans, olives, capers, and tomatoes equally among the plates.
- Remove the salmon from the smoker, cut into 4 equal slices and arrange on the plates.
- Season as needed with salt and pepper
- Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.
I have been boiling eggs for 70 years, and I have made all the mistakes. For a long time, I would put the eggs in cold water, turn the heat to high, and let them boil away until I thought they were done – sometimes for as long as a half hour. The results were always the same: rubbery whites, tough yolks and a thick shell of green on the yolks. I just thought that was the way boiled eggs were supposed to be.
Eventually I learned that a well-boiled egg required scrupulous timing and careful temperature control. Those two changes improved my hard-boiled eggs, but I was still plagued by peeling the little gems. Sometimes, the egg would peel perfectly, but the next time with the same cooking conditions – I thought – great chunks of white would come off with the clinging shell. I read all sorts of treatises on eggs that guaranteed a “perfect” method for removing the shell. They all failed. Some talked about freshness of the egg being key. Others talked about chilling or heating. Sometimes the “no fail” method worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Julia Child, in her informative little book, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000), cited a method that she got from the State of Georgia Egg Board. The technique was very elaborate. You boiled the eggs, chilled them, brought the boiling water back up to temperature, boiled the eggs for a few seconds, and then chilled them again. I had a hard time remembering the instructions Even when I was sure that I had followed it exactly, the method sometimes worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Recently, I read of a technique, again “no fail”, in which you add baking soda to the boiling liquid. The explanation for the method is that the alkaline baking soda hastens congealing of the white and separates it from the membrane that lines the shell. I confess that I have not tried the method, but I am a bit skeptical that the baking soda penetrates the shell. Still…
The method that I have used at least a dozen times with unfailing success has appeared in the magazine, Cook’s Illustrated and in a report on the internet. The method benefits from ease and reliable guidelines. I wouldn’t presume to write about the science behind the method. For one thing, I wouldn’t understand it; for another, there’s a good chance that the explanation has just been made up. If you try cooking hard-boiled eggs by this technique, let me know your results.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. Set them out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before you plan to cook them.
Eggs at room temperature
- Pierce the large ends of the eggs with an egg piercer. This will let air escape from the air sac within the egg so that the egg will not crack while cooking. If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets, you can buy one at Amazon for $2-10.
Two styles of egg piercers
- In a saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid and is large enough to hold the eggs in a single layer, add about 1 to 2 inches of water and a steamer basket that will hold the eggs above the level of the water.
Saucepan with steamer basket
- Bring the water to the boil. Place the eggs in a single layer in the steamer basket. Cover. Adjust the heat so that the water continues to boil but not so vigorously. Immediately start the timer.
Eggs in the steamer basket ready to be cooked
Tightly covered pot steaming away
- I cook the eggs for exactly 15 minutes, but I live at 7,000 feet above sea-level where water boils at 198°F instead of 212°F at sea-level. There, the cooking should take less time – perhaps as little as 10 minutes. – but you will have to do a little experimentation, depending upon the altitude where you live.
Cook the eggs for 15 minutes at 7,000 feet above sea-level
- When the timer goes off, transfer the eggs to a large bowl filled with ice and water. Cool the eggs for the same length of time as the cooking.
Eggs chilled in ice water for as long as they cooked
- Peel the eggs by cracking them all over on a hard surface. Then, under a thin stream of cold running water, peel the eggs, one at a time, beginning at the large end. You should be able to peel the eggs easily and with a smooth surface.
The shell peels off in large, smooth pieces
The perfect peeled egg ready to be sliced
Delicate golden yolks with no green ring!