Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor
By Scott Dolan
The practice of smoking fish has existed for thousands of years. The story behind the discovery of this
process is not entirely clear but it is understood that it is one of the earliest techniques to help preserve
meat and fish.
Smoking helps preserve the fish as the smoke itself delivers an acidic coating onto the fish
surface. The coating prevents oxidation and slows the growth of bacteria, which in turn slows the
decomposition of the fish. In more recent times, fish is readily preserved by refrigeration and freezing
but the smoking of fish is generally done for the unique taste and enhanced flavor.
Smoked fish has been a Siesta Key tradition since the original Siesta Key Fish Market and Smokehouse
that some of you may remember. Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish in St. Petersburg is probably the most famous fish smokehouse in Florida. Walt’s Fish Market has been selling the Florida traditional smoked mullet since the 1980s and are still doing it to this day. Big Water Fish Market on Siesta Key, the only other local fish establishment that smokes fish, does a wide variety of smoked mahi, amberjack, scallops and salmon every Wednesday.
Besides smoked mullet, which is an old-school Florida favorite, homemade smoked fish dip served with
crackers or veggies is still a local favorite delicacy. Acme Smoked Seafood out of New York City, where I
have had the pleasure of touring the facility, provides great store-bought products such as whitefish
salad, smoked trout, hot smoked salmon and cold smoked salmon, better known as lox. The difference
between a hot smoked salmon and a cold smoked salmon is in the curing process.
A hot smoked fish is cured in a salt brine then smoked under a low temperature for a long period of time
with your desired seasonings. To cold smoke a fish such as a lox, you simply rub a raw salmon with salt
and sugar. You then wrap it in plastic and let it sit for several days, allowing the salt and sugar to do their
work and it becomes a cured salmon without the smoking process. If you want to try this at home, talk
to your local fish monger for recipes. For those who may not know, lox is a Jewish delicacy served on a
toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion, tomato and capers. It’s my favorite breakfast of all time and I often get it at the Toasted Mango, located in the same plaza as Big Water Fish Market.
Although there is no season for smoked fish because you can smoke any fish at any time, this is a good
time of year for the prime products. Three of my favorite smoked seafoods this time of year are imported Alaskan salmon, Boston cod, and scallops. If you’re looking for local products that are smoked year-round and delicious, look for wahoo, mahi, and amberjack, which are all gems.
Smoking at home is easy but tedious, so keep in mind that you can always buy a smoked fish from the best local fish mongers such as Big Water Fish Market or Walt’s Fish Market.
My favorite recipe for a smoked fish spread that is commonly served at Florida cocktail parties and as appetizers at your favorite seafood restaurants is as follows:
Either smoke your own fish or buy smoked fish from your local fish monger. Crumble the smoked fish
into a bowl. I prefer larger chunks, though some prefer to put it into a food processor to get a smoother
consistency — your choice. Add salt, pepper and Old Bay to taste, fresh squeezed lemon, finely chopped
onions, celery, and carrots. Then add equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream then mix, chill and serve.
Garnish with chives and serve with crackers or crudites.