Richard Blais's Barely Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel-Avocado-Egg Salsa and 'Everything Bagel' Vinaigrette


[Photograph: John Lee]

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.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Try This at Home to give away this week.