Smoked Whitefish Mousse

For nearly 300 years the Ojibwe thrived on the shores of Gitchii Gamig, what we now call Lake Superior. Fishing on the creeks, smaller lakes, and on Lake Superior was a near constant through the seasons, using nets formed of branches in the summers and fishing through the ice in the winter.

One of the prized treasures was the Adikameg, a slender, silver bullet of fish, now known as freshwater whitefish. The flesh is tender, flaky, and beautifully white when properly prepared. Available around the world, this member of the salmon family has thrived in Lake Superior waters for ages, were the dark cold waters provide the perfect environment for them to thrive. Fishing both by line and by net, the Ojibwe harvest could be prepared for immediate consumption but also preserved for longer by drying on racks in the sun or over low fire.

Whitefish Smoked

The dried whitefish would be added to stews or corn meal and likely was used more the way bonito flakes are prized today. They would have added flavor and protein to dishes and proper drying would preserve them for far longer than fresh fish would be palatable. On a recent trip to Hawaii I was re-acquainted with Dry Aku, their version of dried skip jack which undergoes a far simpler process than bonito flakes and may be a bit closer to the historic process of the Ojibwe.

The recipe we share here for smoked whitefish is a world away from those dried fish preparations, but the base ingredient is the beautifully delicate flakes of whitefish taking on the smokey flavors of a hardwood fire. We feel it falls right into our Great Lakes cuisine traditions.

Smoked Whitefish Mousse

1 lb fresh whitefish fillet

1 tsp sea salt

½ cup heavy cream

8 oz. cream cheese

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs. fresh chives, chopped

Prepare smoker for a low heat, hardwood smoke. We used applewood chips for our preparation. Place whitefish fillet into the smoker with a sprinkle of sea salt. We went for an hour on a fairly thin fillet shown above, but time will depend on fillet thickness and smoking temperature. When in doubt, on this preparation go longer rather than shorter as whitefish firms up as it smokes and a bit of texture is helpful in this approach. Allow to rest over night.

Remove skin and flake fish into food processer. Add heavy cream and blend until just fully mixed then add cream cheese and lemon. Continue blending until smooth. In a bowl, mix whitefish mixture with chives. Chill 4 hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend. Serve with crackers, rye bread toasts, or on cucumber rounds.

Whitefish Smoked1

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The Devil’s Playthings

Idle hands are the devil’s playthings and a bit of idle time led to to this take on Deviled Eggs. The History Channel tells me Deviled Eggs may be as ancient as 1st century Roman culture, where they marinated small song birds and stuffed them into eggs. In this case, my good friend Tom gave me the idea to throw a couple of hard-boiled eggs on while I was smoking a pork tenderloin. His previous experiment with smoking eggs lead me to peel them before smoking to allow more smoke to penetrate the eggs and as they were peeled, we smoked them at a very low heat. Here’s the visual history of an experiment:

Tom sends me this picture and a text: "In the middle of  making an 18 hour pastrami and decided to throw a couple hard boiled eggs on for three hours."
Tom: “In the middle of making an 18 hour pastrami and decided to throw a couple hard boiled eggs on for three hours.”

I’m inspired. “Nice! Smoked Gribiche?”

Gribiche is blended hard-boiled egg yolks with oil, then capers, herbs, and whites.
Gribiche is blended hard-boiled egg yolks with oil, then capers, herbs, and whites.
Traditional on fish, this works on vegetables or chicken , as shown here
Traditional on fish, this works on vegetables or chicken , as shown here

So, I throw on a few eggs to smoke the next week-end.

The peeled eggs allow for the smoke to penetrate more fully in less time.
The peeled eggs allow for the smoke to penetrate more fully in less time.

Now, I’ve had a chance to let ideas marinate.

Let’s go with Double Deviled Eggs.

Yolks mashed with roasted garlic, smoked paprika, mayo, and hot sauce. Pickled sweet peppers on top.
Yolks mashed with roasted garlic, smoked paprika, mayo, and hot sauce. Pickled sweet peppers on top.

As a one bite appetizer, the first flavor is the roasted garlic, mayonnaise and sweet pepper, then you become aware of the hot sauce, and the lingering flavor as you finish is the smoke. Fire, to heat, to smoke. A very satisfying little experiment. See what idle hands can do?

Oh, and as a post script, take a look at the 18 hour smoke ring on the pastrami Tom had working. Gorgeous.

Pastrami4

Maple-Glazed Pheasant

Using the same technique as our Smoked Pheasant, we brined our bird then oven-roasted it to completion while glazing frequently with unreduced maple syrup.  The breasts were left to chill overnight then sliced across the grain. Placed on whole grain crackers, topped with Cardona Goat Milk Cheese from our heroes at Carr Valley, then topped with a malt vinegar gastrique made from a half and half mixture of Wisconsin farmstead buckwheat honey and a home fermented malt vinegar made from Hinterland Maple Bock Beer, simmered to reduce by half along with a few sprigs of lemon thyme.

pheasant with malt vinegar glaze