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Nothing horrific about smoked bluefish

There’s nothing quite like watching the babysitter getting killed by a dead 4-year old while you’re trying to write a scintillating article about smoked seafood. Yes, that is exactly what is happening at midnight as I try to compose a most-enticing piece of culinary literature that would encourage you to actually stop what you’re doing and smoke some bluefish.
I can’t always help where and when I write these things, and as Mike (an employee at the old Solstice store in Berlin) wrote years ago, my tirades are the result of “giving a chef with ADD a typewriter.” Guilty as charged, and I thank you for the kind words, Michael.
Amongst a twisted season of me actually enjoying Hallmark Christmas movies (more on that later), I came home last night to nothing less than “Young Frankenstein,” the Mel Brooks classic that slays me every time that I see it. To top it off, our 14-year old daughter caught the first half with me and she got it. She actually understood it, with Marty Feldman’s buggy eyes and all, and laughed hysterically. Yes, there is hope for our future.
But no, tonight was not to be a repeat of a Brooks’ comedy, set in a marked chiaroscuro black-and-white theme reminiscent of Danny Kaye and Angela Lansbury in a terribly paradoxical remake of “Court Jester” (a reference that I fully understand only a few of you will get).
This evening, instead, was a moment in which I did not return home after hosting a Chef’s Table dinner to be rewarded by a random Bronxesque fifth-generation tailor’s daughter who becomes princess of some faraway, obscure land (Hallmark). No. I came home to “The Shining” and “Amityville Horror.”
There is something so magical in Jack Nicholson’s character, especially when he’s locked in the walk-in and speaking to the “proprietors” of the hotel that is exceptionally and intentionally haunting. It’s hard to look away. But look away I did.
And literally one channel away was the modern rendition of the classic thriller of the Long Island realtor who was the most evil in all real estate history; the lady who sold that poor couple that miserable house in Amityville. I mean, money is money, lady, but where do you draw the line? You knew that the secret kill room was still intact. You are simply a bad person.
But this has gotten away from me. I have to backtrack a little bit to talk about the Hallmark Channel and my recent love of its many offerings. For all of you gentlemen out there, and I know that you’re there, just remember this one simple trick: You don’t have to like Hallmark movies. You just need to “appreciate” them. And, by appreciate, I mean survive. I’ve mastered a formidable trick that might just help you.
Every time that you are stuck watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel, simply add the phrase (in your head) “and then he/she was hit by a bus” every time that the hero/heroine walks away from the camera. It’s a simple trick, but believe me it works.
Ah, the Christmas season. The sights. The smells. The Shining. But while you’re at it, you really do need to try this smoked bluefish; and don’t wrinkle your nose at it. Bluefish is oily, which makes it perfect for smoking. I believe that I have a 100 percent satisfaction rate with this one.
Besides, it’s much better than the alternative – that nasty, soothsayer 4-year old bent on your babysitter’s destruction.
Smoked Bluefish
Serves 4
½ lb Bluefish, fresh filets
Brine (recipe follows), as needed
Chips for smoking
Capers, as needed
Hard boiled eggs, as needed
Dijon Horseradish cream (recipe follows)
1/2 red onion, finely minced
Crackers, as needed

1. Clean the bluefish and remove scales, but leave the skin on the fish
2. Brine in the salt solution for at least four hours and up to overnight
3. Drain thoroughly and allow to dry in a refrigerator, uncovered for at least one day. This is a critical step in the most killer smoked bluefish you’ve ever made. Trust me. I’m a doctor. Not really … just trust me.
4. When you are sure that you have waited patiently for the fish to get that dry, tacky pellicle, then you may proceed to the next step
5. Smoke the bluefish until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 155F
6. Here comes the tricky part; waiting
7. Allow the fish to dry out overnight, uncovered, to allow what I call the ‘cigarette’ effect to wear off. You have put a lot of work into this, so you don’t want to ruin it now. Let the acrid, bitter flavors to dissipate so that you are left with a mellow, perfectly smoked fish
8. Serve with your accouterments; crackers, crostini, capers, hardboiled eggs, horsey sauce. Basically, whatever your heart tells you will go with smoked fish. What a glorious thing!
For 1/2 gallon
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
Herbs or your choice
Whole lemon, halved

1.  Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved
2. Reserve until ready to brine
Dijon Horseradish Cream
Makes approximately 2 cups
3/4 cups Mayonnaise
1 cup Crème fraiche or sour cream
Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp. Horseradish, spicy
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste