While almost all of the dishes in Richard Blais's new cookbook, Try This at Home, are playful, chef-y takes on classic American cuisine, most of them still resemble their unembellished forebears. On the other hand, Blais's Barely Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel-Avocado-Egg Salsa and "Everything Bagel" Vinaigrette takes a deli staple, bagel and lox, and upends its style in a decidedly refined form. The anchor is a small fillet of salmon, smoked for only five minutes. This leaves the fish almost raw with a faint whiff of smoke. The bagel appears crumbled and crunchy in a "salsa"-like assemblage with avocado and peeled (yes, you should peel here) cherry tomatoes. Capers, red onion, and egg also show up, along with the "everything bagel" seeds and spices present in the vinaigrette. It makes for a beautiful plate that's unfamiliar in appearance but comforting in flavor.
Why I picked this recipe: I wanted to tackle one of the more "chef-y" recipes in the book, and this refined take on a bagel and lox seemed like a colorful choice.
What worked: The flavors here are spot on—it tastes like deli food but looks like a high-end appetizer.
What didn't: I used the smoker hack recommended in the book (disposable aluminum pans plus a foil "rack") and it mostly worked. I had a hard time getting it to maintain its smoke even for five minutes after adding the salmon. I ended up turning the burner back on for about 30-45 seconds with the salmon inside before removing it from the heat to finish smoking.
Suggested tweaks: This stovetop recipe is a good one for getting smoky flavor without having to go outside to grill. Still, I am not sure that it would work on an electric range (anyone out there tried using a stovetop smoker on electric?), so if that's what you've got, you may want to try smoking the salmon on a grill or just buying a smoked fillet. Also, it should go without saying that you'll want to source the freshest salmon you can find.
Reprinted from Try This at Home: Recipes from my head to your plate by Richard Blais. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkston Potter. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:40 minutes
- Cooking spray
- 1/2 cup hickory chips
- Four 4-ounce center-cut skin-on wild salmon fillets
- 2 cups cubed or roughly torn (1/2-inch pieces) pumpernickel bagel, pumpernickel bread, lightly toasted, or toasted pumpernickel croutons
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
- 8 cherry tomatoes, peeled
- 1 large hard-boiled egg, white and yolk separated
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- "Everything Bagel" Vinaigrette, for serving
Spray the rack of a stovetop smoker with cooking spray and set the salmon on it. Pour the hickory chips into the chamber of the smoker, close the lid three-quarters of the way, and heat over medium heat. After about 5 minutes, when the chips begin to smolder, open the lid and place the salmon on the rack over the chips. Close the lid and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 to 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the bagel, onion, and capers. With a small melon baller, cut balls from the avocado and add to the bowl along with the tomatoes. Finely chop the hard-boiled egg white and add it, along with the parsley and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss with a rubber spatula. Drizzle enough vinaigrette over the pumpernickel mixture to moisten. Toss very gently.
To serve, transfer the salmon to four plates. Divide the pumpernickel salsa among the plates. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salmon and crumble the egg yolk over the salmon. Serve immediately.
Note: that rests on top of the chips, simply roll pieces of aluminum foil into tight sturdy rods and lay them close together in the pan; spray them with cooking spray before you heat the hickory chips. Place the salmon on the rack or foil rods and smoke as directed.