Sunday, December 9, 2012

Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese

Fromage frais au saumon fume

This is our version of what would be called fromage frais au saumon fume. The Neufchatel cheese that we use is the closest American equivalent to the beloved Kiri cheese. The Kiri with its tagline "The cheese for gourmet rug-rats" (le fromage des gastronomes en culottes courtes) is a staple of elementary school children lunches and snacks. I can still remember peeling off the aluminum foil wrapper and digging into the fresh creamy goodness. The Kiri was definitively an upgrade from the Laughing Cow wedges (another French kiddos favorites). The only sad part is that it took me 10 years to figure this out and when I did, it was bliss. This take on the saumon fume (smoked salmon) is a little different than what would be found in France. French smoked salmon is closer to lox as it is mainly cold smoked,  whereas our spin will involve a hot smoke process. But hot smoke is a lot easier to achieve in a home kitchen.

To make Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese you need to lay your hands on some Smoked Salmon. One way to do this, is to use a stove-top smoker, which is what we are going to do here.  These smokers are very convenient.  They look like a typical 9 x 11 baking dish which is sealed with a metal lid.

Here is a small piece of Salmon which weighs almost exactly one pound.

Fresh Salmon for Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese

It doesn't take very long for the stove-top smoker to smoke the salmon, and since we will slicing this up eventually anyway, we will cut it into 1.5 inch slices.  This will allow the salmon to pick up more of the smoke.

Sliced Salmon ready for the smoker.

To complement the Salmon, we are choosing to use Alder wood.  Traditionally, Alder wood is used to smoke fish especially Salmon because it is mildly sweet and doesn't overpower the fish like Hickory for example.  The Cameron smoker uses really fine wood, which looks almost like sawdust.  You should only use two tablespoons of wood chips. You may be tempted to use more than that, but if you do, the wood chips won't burn very well.  It is better to limit the amount to two tablespoons, and if you are looking for that strong smoky flavor, use another method of smoking.  Which of course at some point will be the topic of another post!  Also a good tip is to put down a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of your smoker for easy clean-up.

Alder Wood Chips in the bottom of the Smoker

Time to smoke! You can smoke on the Stove-top if you like, but it does produce a lot of smoke, so we use a hotplate in the garage.  It is the same hotplate we use when we do canning in the summer to minimize the heat in the house. We both really like the smell of the smoke, but the house will still have that great smell just from opening the door a few times.

You should watch your Smoked Salmon fairly closely.  Our hotplate heats up slowly, and if you use a gas range it will heat up really quickly, so just keep an eye on it.  It took about 35 minutes for the Salmon to be completed. It may take you less, or more time.

Smoked Salmon just ouf the stove-top smoker.

Now, on to the Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese!  It would be unusual in France for a household to smoke their own Salmon, and they certainly don't smoke as often as American's.  Assembling the Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese is really easy:

1 lbs Cream Cheese (we use Neufchatel)
2 lemons
1 tsp Worcestershire
2 Tsp Mayonnaise
1 lb Smoked Salmon (divided)
Fresh Dill

Sit the cream cheese out so it reaches room temperature. It is easiest to use a food processors, but a bowl would work just fine.  Use whatever you have available.  Add the softened cream cheese.  Juice the two lemons.  Add Worcestershire sauce, and Mayonnaise.  Save several large pieces of the smoked salmon, and sit them aside. Add about half of the Smoked Salmon and mix thoroughly.  Once it has been mixed, then coarsely chop the remaining smoked salmon and add.  You want to separate the salmon because adding the larger pieces after mixing make a great chunky texture to the spread.  Add fresh dill when you serve.

There are many ingredients you can add or substitute like capers, shallots, or creme fraiche. Perfect for a Sunday Brunch, or a light dinner with a salad. A perfect tartines spread. Enjoy!

Smoked Salmon Creme Cheese on a toasted bagel

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