Choosing smoked salmon isn't easy

December 13, 1992|By Jimmy Schmidt | Jimmy Schmidt,Knight-Ridder News Service

Along with caviar, earthy pates, terrines and cheeses, smoked salmon can be particularly tasty during the holiday season.

For all its simplicity, smoked salmon can be difficult to choose. Although any salmon can be smoked, the two most common are Pacific King salmon and Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic, the most popular in the United States, has a rich flavor and dense silky texture, while the Pacific tends to be lighter in flavor and softer in texture.

The best textured smoked salmon never sees the freezer. Before you buy, ask whether the salmon has been frozen.

One of the most famous types of smoked salmon comes from Scotland. Make sure the label reads "Scottish Smoked Salmon" or look for a sticker that reads "Scottish Salmon Smokers' Association." If it's labeled "Scotch smoked salmon," it might have been caught but not processed in Scotland.

The northeast United States has a number of great smokers. The best salmon comes from Duck Trap Farms in Maine.

Although some Pacific types are quite good, my preference is for a great Atlantic salmon smoked in Maine or Scotland.

Smoked salmon doesn't need to be thoroughly cooked, as raw salmon does. Add it to hot dishes at the last second so the heat warms it.

Smoked salmon with angel hair pasta

Serves four.

1/2 cup shallots, peeled, ends removed, finely diced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

4 tablespoons grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt to taste

coarsely ground black pepper to taste

1 pound angel hair pasta

2 ounces smoked salmon, julienne

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

In a medium-size saucepan over high heat, combine the shallots and white wine and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add the heavy cream and lemon rind and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat.

In a large amount of boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Transfer to a strainer, rinse with warm water and drain well. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the pasta, lemon sauce and smoked salmon. Arrange on warm serving plates and sprinkle with chives.

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