Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

The smoking adventures on the Big Green Egg continues… this time with trout.  I wanted to venture out with another type of fish since I’ve smoked salmon [we're a big fan of smoked salmon] every weekend since I purchased the Big Green Egg, which was almost four weeks ago.

I bought four whole trouts yesterday, excited to cure and smoke it.  But when I got home, I didn’t realize that the pin bones and spine were still intact.  Ugh.  I felt almost immediately overwhelmed by the idea of removing the bones.  I YouTubed some videos on how to filet trout, and got right in.  [YouTube always comes in handy for situations like this!]  Luckily, the sweet filet knife I recently got came in handy for this daunting task.  It took some time and hacking at the fish before I got the hang of deboning and fileting fish.  Needless to say, I finished without cutting myself [unfortunately, I accidentally cut myself often in the kitchen... it's a combination of clumsiness + hurriedness], throwing swear words left and right,  or giving up , but all four fileted fish looked pretty hacked up.

The final score:
Me 4
Trout 0

Smoked Trout on the Big Green Egg

3 pounds trout, about 3 to 5 ounces each, skin on, pin bones and spine removed, and fileted
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon black pepper
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the trout filets with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.

Rinse the trout under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours up to 24 hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish. [I allowed mine to dry in the refrigerator for 12 hours.]

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and your favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. Smoke for about 3 hours. Remove from smoker, allow to cool, and enjoy it with some creme fraiche, cream cheese, on a salad, or pick at it like we did :)

Grilled Shrimp and Corn Salad with Avocado

I need to read more.  I feel well-informed of current affairs from reading various news media, but I don’t read enough books.  I used to love thumbing through books, especially historical fiction novels that had something to do with China and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.  Now I spend the majority of my day at work staring at a computer screen, only to come home to stare at a computer screen perusing through different food-related websites, my blog, and anything else of interest.  And then there’s the television.  I’m addicted to my television.  How pathetic, right?  I love my Bravo station.  Real Housewives of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County?  Yes, please!

The sad thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I picked up a book for leisure.  I even bought myself and my partner a Kindle in hopes that it would encourage me to buy books on-the-fly to read, but instead, it sits on my nightstand collecting dust.  At least my partner uses her Kindle and puts it to good use.  She has finished three books in a matter of three days, and working on a new book as we speak, while I sit here lazily on the couch, blogging, watching a recorded show of The Voice, and perusing through Food Gawker and Tastespotting.

Maybe I should finish this blog post and pick up my Kindle :)

Any good book suggestions?  What about Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto?

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Grilled Corn and Avocado (adapted from Epicurious)

1 pound large shrimp
1 large ear of corn, husked
2 lemons, halved
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper

5 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice from grilled lemon
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon truffle oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Butterfly the shrimps by slicing almost through lengthwise, while leaving the shell on shrimp. Devein the shrimp, if necessary. Toss with olive oil, juice of one lemon, and season with salt and pepper.

Place the lemons, corn, and shrimp on the grill. Grill the shrimp two minutes on each side, until the shells are pink and the shrimp opaque; the lemons for about one minute, or until there are charred grill marks to caramelize the sugars of the lemon; and the corn has also developed charred grill marks around the diameter of the corn.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When cool to handle, cut the kernels off the corn cob in a shallow bowl, and peel the shrimp. Arrange the lettuce on two plates or bowls [however, you like to serve your salad], layered with corn, black beans, avocado, and shrimp. Divide dressing between two plates. [You could toss the salad with the dressing instead. I think the salad looks "prettier" when arranged this way.]

Makes 2 servings.

My First Attempt at Smoking Salmon on My New Big Green Egg

My birthday present to myself was a new Big Green Egg, something that I had been fantasizing and longing for, for the last year and a half.  The Big Green Egg is a kamado cooker, or simply a ceramic all-in-one cooker that can smoke, grill (and sear at really high temperatures), and bake.  You can even recreate a “wood-fired” pizza oven-like effect on this thing because it retains heat so well!

My partner has been a little less enthusiastic about the cooker.  It has been tough trying to convince my partner the idea of buying a semi-expensive the BGE, especially when we have a lot of house projects that we’d like to accomplish… replacing the carpets with laminate flooring, updating our bathrooms and kitchen, and redesigning our backyard to be more low-water maintenance.  And not to mention, my much anticipated hospital bill, which I still haven’t received from my recent hospitalization in February.  So I understand her concerns for spending money on the BGE when we have so much more to do.  I’ve mentioned the BGE to her more frequently these last couple of weeks than I ever had before.  I even tried to entice her by showing her videos on YouTube and explaining to her how it can even bake.  Whatever I did [I think it was the ability to bake on the BGE that sold her] to convince her worked because she was driving me to the only retailer that sells BGEs on my birthday!

After watching the instructional DVD, and perusing through the numerous BGE forums for the do’s and don’ts, I finally mustered up the courage to “break it in” so-to-speak.  I guess you can say I was slightly intimidated by the cooker.  I don’t really know why the BGE was so intimidating, or if it was just me being scared of change and stepping out of my comfort zone of the gas grill.  But after much debate with myself on which recipe to try first, I settled on smoking salmon.  It would be the perfect recipe to try as it would give me the opportunity to smoke something [something that I had always wanted to do], and to play around with the temperature control [which is supposedly really easy according to the BGE manufacturer, but I didn't think it was that easy].

The salmon came out beautifully after three hours of smoking.  I flaked a little piece for my partner to try, and well, let’s just say that she is a new BGE convert :)

Smoked Salmon

1.5 pound slab of fresh salmon filet, with skin on
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt (non-iodized)
6 garlic cloves, finely minced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the all the ingredients above and mix thoroughly. Liberally pack the salmon filet with the brown sugar mixture. Place in a shallow glass baking dish, and cover tightly with saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove the brine. Dry the salmon with a paper towel, and allow it to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered. It should dry for a couple of hours to develop the pellicle (shiny skin) on the surface of the fish.

Fire up your smoker per the manufacturer’s instructions and you favorite wood chips [I used alder; hickory or mesquite would be too potent for seafood] to around 180 to 220 degrees F. The salmon will be ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Remove it from the heat and devour it right away, or vacuum seal it so that you have it on hand for a while.  The latter may be difficult because you might finish it before you even get to package it away.

My Chinese Family, Part I (and Chinese chive dumplings with shrimps and scallops)

As I get older and with each year that passes me by, I’ve begun to notice my parents aging.  I still consider them young for their age, but they aren’t as youthful and spry as they once were.  They complain of aches and pains that weren’t present before.   They have ailments for which they need medicate.  They doze off while we watch TV together, just like how they used to complain of their parents doing so while they spent time together.  They’re becoming more forgetful.  They are slowly being adorned with wrinkles and gray hair.  It has made me realize how little I know about my parents.

My partner has been pushing me to document my parents’ life stories, and to also document the recipes that we grew up with.  She wants to ensure that we can pass down our family stories to the next generation.  You see, I know very little about my family history.  I can recall bits and pieces of my parents’ childhood, but not enough to tell a story.  It saddens me.   I had so many opportunities to spend time with my great grandfather and grandparents to learn more about them and their life in China, but I didn’t.  Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

I lost my heritage while desperately immersing myself into Western cultures while growing up as an Asian-American.  I didn’t want to be Chinese.  I thought I was the ugly duckling next to my non-Asian classmates while in grade school.  I wanted to be the blond hair, blue-eyed girl next door.  If someone asked me what I was, I’d quickly respond with, “American.” I hated checking the “Asian” box for my ethnicity.  I used to always wonder to myself, why did I have to be Chinese?  Why me?  It just wasn’t fair.  I can also recall how I didn’t like to be out in public with my parents because I was so embarrassed by their broken English.  Thankfully, this all changed during the mid-90s when Amy Tan came out with The Joy Luck Club that I gained some pride in my nationality.

I realize that it’s not too late to start interviewing my parents and my relatives.  I just don’t want to keep procrastinating this project or else it might just be too late.  So I’m going to do what my partner suggested, and dedicate a series titled, My Chinese Family.   I hope you’ll enjoy the stories and the recipes, as much as I have as a child and still do as an adult.

To start off this series, I wanted to dedicate this post to my Mom.  She is my hero.  The most influential person in my life.  My brother and I are very lucky to have her as our Mom.  She’s also an amazing chef… we ALWAYS look forward to Monday night dinners at Mama Chang’s!  One of the ultimate comfort foods for me is my Mom’s Chinese chive dumplings with shrimps and scallops.  My Mom doesn’t cook with recipes… it’s a little dash of this, and a little dash of that.  So it was always hard trying to cook with my Mom when I was growing up.  And to this day, it’s still hard because now I’m trying to translate her dashes into measurements :)

Chinese Chive Dumplings (Jiaozi) with Shrimps and Scallops

1 large bunches of Chinese chives, rinsed and drained, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 pounds scallops, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
2 pounds shrimp, chopped into 1/4-inch dices
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth or water
3 packages pot sticker wraps (or homemade dumpling dough)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients together, except for the Chinese chives. Using a pair of chopsticks, mix the ingredients in ONE direction [This technique allows everything to combine; whereas, if you were to mix in all directions, the mixture would separate, rather than come together. It works because my Mom says so :)] until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes. [Your forearms will certainly get a good workout.]  Next, pour in the Chinese chives and mix in one direction for another five minutes until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined.  This may sound yucky to some, but take a piece of the Chinese chive and place it in your mouth to test the seasoning. If it seems bland, adjust the seasoning with adding a little extra more salt.

Heat a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. [Trust me, you'll want to do this ahead of time to get the water to boil faster because you'll want to eat those dumplings immediately after their wrapped. And besides, you never want to watch a pot to boil water or else it'll just take longer (or so it seems).]

Prepare a small bowl of water and cut open the pot sticker wraps. Place a small portion (about one heaping tablespoonful or a little more if you are advanced) of the filling into the middle of each wrapper. Wet the edges of the dumpling with water. Fold the dough over the filling into a half moon shape and pinch the edges to seal. Continue with the remainder of the dumplings.

As you get down to the last few dumplings to wrap, turn the heat to high to boil the pot of water. Once it comes to a boil, add a teaspoon of sesame oil [this helps them to not stick] and half the dumplings, giving them a gentle stir so they don’t stick together. Bring the water to a boil, and add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat. When the dumplings come to a boil for a third time, they are ready. Carefully drain and remove. If desired, they can be pan-fried at this point.

Serve with your favorite Chinese dipping sauces. I love to dip mine with a mixture of soy sauce, white distilled vinegar, and a homemade Chinese XO sauce. Yum.

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