Since the April charcutepalooza challenge was to hot smoke food, I wanted to try making smoked salmon. Smoking salmon on a stove top smoker is tricky, because you don’t want to fully cook the salmon as this will yield an entirely different texture, very firm and flaky. What I wanted was silky, buttery smoked salmon, like you would purchase at the store.
With some tips from @drwinnie on twitter, I was successful. You first get the best salmon you can find, skin on. I got a 1 lb piece. You want to get a piece that is even in thickness, so that the thinner edges do not over cook while you smoke them. You cure the salmon following the directions on Charcuterie, and then you smoke it on very low heat for 15 minutes. Remove it from the smoker, place on a rack, and refrigerate immediately. Once it cools you can store it in parchment paper. When you are ready to eat it, slice it very thinly. Do not remove the skin from whatever section you don’t use. I find that storing it with the skin on keeps it moist and silky.
Once I had this gorgeous smoked salmon in my hands, I had to use it to build one of my favorite breakfasts: bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon.
So how easy is this: toast bagel, spread with cream cheese, top with smoked salmon, sprinkle with lemon juice, and shower with chopped dill fronds. Given the simplicity of my chosen dish, I challenged myself to make both the bagels and the cream cheese. I found recipes for both that seemed straight forward and easy. You get extra kudos if you grow your own dill, I didn’t.
I imagined that bagels would be difficult to make, but the truth is that you just have to follow a pretty easy process.
You prepare a sponge before going to bed, this takes about 15 minutes. The next morning, you add a few ingredients to the sponge, knead, form bagels, let them rest for 5 minutes on each side, boil them for 2 minutes, and then bake them for 13 minutes.
This whole process took me less than one hour. These are best eaten right away. You can also freeze them, and slice and toast them right before you want to eat them. That way they won’t get stale and you will get that fresh out of the oven taste and texture.
Making the cream cheese was a little bit more time-consuming than making bagels, but a lot of it is inactive time. The most labor intensive part is straining the curds, which would not have been too bad if I had not tipped over the bowl with the leftover whey all over me and the kitchen floor. My plans for making ricotta (re-cooked whey) foiled. This tasted exactly like store-bought, maybe it had a hint more milky/fresher flavor to it.
Home-Made Cream Cheese
Adapted from E-How
• 1 gallon whole milk
• 1 cup whole milk cultured buttermilk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 junket rennet tablet
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• ¼ cup white vinegar
1. Add milk, buttermilk, and heavy cream to a large pot and heat to 80°F over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let sit for 1 hour.
2. Dissolve junket rennet tablet into 1 tablespoon water. Add this to milk, and stir. Add in the vinegar and lemon juice. Stir well. Let sit for 1 hour. A firm curd will form. With a long knife cut the curd into rough squares and let sit for 1 more hour.
3. Prepare a strainer by lining it with cheesecloth or a thin canvas kitchen towel. Ladle the curd into the strainer, tie the cheesecloth/kitchen towel with kitchen twine. Squeeze softly to press out some of the whey. Place the package on a strainer over a large bowl in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Your cream cheese is now ready, you can add salt at this point if desired. I added 1 teaspoon.
4. If you want to make whipped cream cheese: remove cream cheese from the refrigerator for 15 minutes and place it in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat for about 5 minutes and slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream while beating. Do not over-beat. Place in a container and refrigerate.
I made these bagels early on a Saturday morning, later that day I went to a cooking class with Olga from Mango Tomato. Since she had invited me to the class, it was only right to bring her some bagels, cream cheese, and smoked salmon. Check out her fabulous photos if you have a chance. We had actually talked about a breakfast of smoked salmon and bagels over twitter, and I’m glad I had a chance to share.