It's been cold here as of late (Brrr, temps in the single digits with Chicago-like winds). Beyond soups and stews, I'm craving hearty, stick-to-your-bones, comfort food.
I'm a BIG fan of smoked fish. Well, actually, I love just about anything that comes out of a smoker/smokehouse. Perhaps it's in my DNA. Is there a gene that regulates affinity for smoked food? It must be a combination of my New York/Eastern European (Russian/Polish) roots.
Whenever I see a dish that incorporates smoked fish, I'm easily swooned. In coming across this recipe for smoked trout brandade several months back (September 2014 issue of Bon Appetit), it immediately went into the 'must try-recipes' archive.
Brandade is a classic, French (Provencal), winter comfort dish; an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil blended with cream or milk, potatoes, and garlic until lusciously smooth and creamy. The base for brandade is salt cod. Salt preserving is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. However, before salt cod is palatable, it must be rehydrated and desalinated (soaked a day or two in water, changing the water several times per day).
While not entirely traditional, this recipe calls for smoked trout in place of salt cod. Fear not, it's equally delicious with smoked trout, after all it's smoked fish. Bonus: No soaking is required, so you can whip up a batch of smoked trout brandade without much planning or effort.
Smoke trout brandade makes for a delectable hors d'oeuvre. Serve at your next dinner party or gathering on some crusty, grilled bread along with cured meats, cheeses, and grapes. Who wouldn't like that? That being said, I'd be just as happy having this for dinner alongside a green salad.
Unfortunately, my lack of outdoor space prohibits me from experimenting with home smoking (other than a small stovetop smoker). However, the day will come (oh someday, to dream, I'll have a little patch of green to call my own)...
Until then, I'm happy to support the local food community. These trout come from Neopol Savory Smokery [Union Market, Washington, D.C.]. Neopol is a family-owned and operated producer of artisanal smoked fish based out of Baltimore, MD.
Chef John Fleer (of Rhubarb in Asheville, NC), from whom this recipe comes, enjoys indoor picnics with his family -- smoked trout brandade and store-bought fixings. “We just sit on the floor and chat and chew," he says.
Sounds like an ideal way to spend an evening (with a glass of wine, of course).