Wild-caught sablefish (a k a black cod, Alaska cod, butterfish) from Alaska is a fatty, mild-flavored fish with luscious, buttery texture. It’s an ideal candidate for smoking. If your fillet is long, cut it in half so you can pull the thinner tail end, which will cook more quickly, off the grill when it’s done. If you can’t find sablefish, use wild Alaskan salmon instead. Your choice of wood will influence the taste. For more pronounced smoky flavor, use hickory. For subtle smokiness, use applewood. Serve atop crackers, flaked over a tossed green salad or with bagels and cream cheese (with capers, of course).
1 quart boiling water
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
18 whole juniper berries, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
1 bay leaf
1 (1-pound) sablefish (black cod) fillet
2 cups wood chips (hickory or applewood)
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar. Cool to room temperature. Add sablefish to pan (if the fish bobs to the surface, weight it down with a small bowl). Cover, and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
Soak wood chips for 20 minutes to an hour. Drain.
Preheat grill and set it up for indirect heat. For a charcoal grill, move ash-covered coals to one side of the grill, and add soaked, drained wood chips directly to the coals. For a gas grill, place the chips in a smoker box, or arrange chips on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap, and poke holes in top of foil. Place the smoker box or foil packet directly on the heated burner. Heat chips 5-10 minutes or until they start to smoke.
Remove fish from brine; discard the brine. Rinse fish thoroughly and pat dry. Brush skin side of fish with canola oil. Add fish, skin side down, to unheated side of grill. Cover, and smoke 10-15 minutes or until just firm and opaque. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillet. Flake fish into bite-size pieces. Serve warm or cold. The smoked fish will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Yields about 1 pound smoked sablefish
Prep Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes (includes brining time)
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes