James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, Diane Morgan, creates this simple, yet elegant meal.
Once you have tried tea-smoking salmon, whether in a stove-top smoker, a wok, or on the grill, you’ll wonder how a piece of fish with almost no embellishments can taste so good. Smoking the butter for the mashed potatoes at the same time is smart thinking and efficient use of the tea-smoking ingredients.
Tea-Smoked Salmon and Butter
Recipe by Diane Morgan
1/4 cup / 48 g firmly-packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup / 44g dry white rice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Nonstick cooking spray
1 center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin on, and pin bones removed
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl mix together the tea leaves, brown sugar, and rice. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a shallow heatproof bowl. (The bowl must be shallow enough to clear the cover of the stove-top smoker, if that is what you are using to smoke the salmon and butter.)
Using a stove-top smoker or a wok, line the bottom of the pan with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spread the tea-smokingmixture over the center of the foil in an even layer, in the center of the pan. Place a piece of foil over top, covering all of the tea-smoking mixture.
Place a drip tray, covered with aluminum foil, on top. (If using a wok, set a large sheet of aluminum foil loosely in place over the tea-smoking mixture.) Place a wire rack, sprayed with nonstick spray, on top of the drip tray or foil.
Place the bowl of melted butter on the rack, allowing room for the salmon fillet. Arrange the salmon on the rack, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slide the lid on the stovetop smoker or cover the wok, leaving it slightly open, and then place the smoker over medium heat. When the first wisp of smoke appears, close the lid. Smoke the salmon and butter for 12 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the salmon and butter in the smoker, covered, for an additional 5 minutes.
When the salmon is done, remove to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and keep warm while you mash the potatoes, using the smoked butter. When ready to serve, cut the salmon crosswise into 4 pieces and place a salmon fillet in the center, on top of a portion of mashed potatoes, and serve immediately.
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Tea-Smoked Butter
Deliciously different from russet potatoes, mashed Yukon Golds are creamy rich, with a buttery texture and a lovely golden hue. They have a higher moisture content and are lower in starch than the russet potato, and therefore require a different proportion of milk and butter when puréed. For a busy cook who likes to entertain and avoid last minute chaos in the kitchen, know that it works perfectly well to cook and mash potatoes up to 1 hour in advance. They can be kept warm in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, or reheated in a microwave oven just before serving.
Serves 6 to 8
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2lb/1.2 kg
Kosher or fine sea salt
1 cup/240 ml milk
1/2 cup/120 ml heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup/115 g tea-smoked unsalted butter (see Tea-Smoked Salmon recipe)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper
Peel the potatoes and rinse under cold water. Cut each potato into quarters and place in a large saucepan. Add cold water to cover, place over high heat, cover partially, and bring to a boil. Uncover, add 2 tsp salt, and reduce the heat so the water boils gently. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk and cream over medium heat just until steaming hot but not boiling.
Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the warm pan. Place over low heat and stir over for 1 minute to evaporate any excess water. Using a potato masher, ricer, or food mill, mash the potatoes.
Add the tea-smoked butter into the potatoes and stir to mix. Add the milk mixture, a little at a time, until the potatoes are as soft and moist as you like. Stir in the parsley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, or keep warm in the top of a double boiler, or cover and rewarm in a microwave oven.
NT: You are such a prolific writer, with a full 17 cook books to your credit and James Beard award winning titles. What inspires you to continue writing?
DM: At this stage of my career, my inspiration comes from learning and excitement for a subject. For instance, when I conceived of the idea to write Roots, I wasn’t an expert on the subject though I had cooked extensively with many root vegetables. I was fascinated to learn about the world of root vegetables and that passion propelled me to research, study, and get in the kitchen and experiment and develop recipes. That mode has carried me through all my books, whether it is salmon, the Thanksgiving holiday, the technique of grilling, food gifts for giving, or even a topic as humble as dips.
NT: Your book Roots highlights the wonders of varied root vegetables, so your recently created a tea-smoked mashed potato recipe, attached to this interview, seems to fit right in. What other roots do you see working with tea?
DM: I think other roots that can work with the tea-smoking technique include sweet potatoes, beets, onions, and, maybe, rutabagas!
NT: After living in Chicago for six years you moved to Portland. How do you compare these two cities for cuisine trends?
DM: I lived in Chicago for almost six years, from 1978 until 1983. Times have really changed in both cities! I moved from Chicago with 36 pounds of Land of Lakes unsalted butter and 30 pounds of Valrona bittersweet chocolate because I wasn’t sure I could source either good butter or chocolate in Portland! Now, in both cities we have leading-edge restaurants, adventurous chefs, green markets and a real food sensibility beyond fine continental dining and French cuisine. It was slim-pickings on the food scene when I moved to Portland. But now, it is actually a food destination for travelers.
NT: You write from a very farm-to-table oriented community in the Pacific Northwest. How does living in Portland influence your writing?
DM: I am completely influenced by the farmers’ markets and the seasonality and rhythms of the seasons. I never eat berries out of season unless I have frozen some of the summer’s bounty. Asparagus, for me, is seasonal, as much as morel or chanterelle mushrooms. I just made twelve cups of sour cherry jam and canned it. I have just macerated green walnuts for two batches of the Italian liqueur Nocino. It is in gallon-size jars in my pantry for five months. All of these projects influence my writing because I am spurred on to develop recipes based on what is in season.
NT: Beyond cookbook writing, you also conduct a variety of food related workshops; what do you see next in what you offer?
DM: I just returned from almost three weeks in Provence and had an opportunity to have lunch with Patricia Wells along with a food-focused group of colleagues. Her boutique cooking classes in her homes in Paris and Provence got me thinking about small group classes in my kitchen. Portland has so many culinary travelers now and it would be a unique experience. I will continue to offer food-writing workshops as I do most years. Many bloggers, chefs, and even food producers think about writing a cookbook and need to learn how to write a book proposal, find an agent and publisher. Many need the fundamental skills of writing a recipe that works!
NT: Your approach to cooking is known as “a passion for cooking at home”—how can readers keep the passion alive in what and how they cook for those they love?
DM: I believe those who cook for themselves and for their family need to see cooking as a fun activity and not a chore. It should be a time of family participation and enjoyment. Sharing a meal, sharing in its preparation, even the shopping is a way to connect and have conversation. If everything about mealtime is about rushing to fill our bellies and get back to whatever we were doing or are about to do, then we have lost a real opportunity to connect as a family. My children have grown up with a respect for real homemade food and an understanding that nourishment moves beyond just what our bodies need to a place of what we need spirituality.
NT: What’s one thing most of your readers don’t know about you?
DM: Most readers probably don’t know quite how much I love and eat wild salmon! I have 75 pounds in my freezer right now, having just stocked up as we are in “high season” for wild salmon production from Alaska and off the coast of Oregon. I have the fish cut into 1- to 2-pound portions and then flash frozen and vacuum-sealed in super heavy-duty bags. We eat salmon two to three times a week and I love the leftovers for breakfast! I always need protein at breakfast and alternate between salmon, eggs, smoked fish, and even pickled herring! All those omega-3’s are good for the heart and good for wrinkle-free skin!