Use your smoker to make to-die-for salmon with recipes from Canoe

Have you seen those stories saying smoked foods are trending for 2017?

Really? Well, in the South, smoked foods aren’t trending. They’re a staple. Ham? Barbecue? Bacon? Where would everyday Southern cuisine be without these?

But if you’re thinking there might be a need for more smoked food in your diet, then maybe this is the year you work smoked fish into your repertoire.

At Canoe restaurant on the banks of the Chattahoochee, cold smoked salmon has been on the menu for decades. Former executive chef Gary Mennie created the recipe for a salt, sugar, spice and herb rub and perfected a cold smoking technique that’s been used on the restaurant’s most popular appetizer ever since.

“Canoe House Cold Smoked Salmon” is offered at brunch, lunch and dinner. The combination of a crisp potato pancake with lightly smoked salmon and a few simple garnishes is a customer favorite. Here’s a note from one of our readers, Ken Kirkwood of Alpharetta.

"My wife and I totally agree with AJC Food and Dining editor Ligaya Figueras that the House Smoked Salmon appetizer at Canoe is to die for. We smoke our own salmon on our Big Green Egg and would love to recreate this dish at home. Could you please persuade Canoe to share this recipe?"

Canoe’s executive chef Matthew Basford was happy to share the recipe and the restaurant’s smoking technique for both their cold smoked salmon and their hot smoked trout. “I can’t take the credit. It’s Gary’s recipe and I’m just keeping the dream alive. I believe he based it loosely on Wolfgang Puck’s smoked salmon but gave it a little more tang.”

It’s so popular the kitchen purchases at least 14 whole salmon week in and week out. They order them from Foley Fish Boston, getting salmon that are at least 14 pounds each. The kitchen fillets each whole fish, then spreads the fillets with cure. The salmon sides sit for three days, then the cure is removed and the fish sits overnight before going into the smoker.

But the smoker isn’t for cooking. The cure is what “cooks” the fish. The cold smoking is just to give the fish a light smoked flavor. “The salt in the cure is the cooking medium,” says Basford. “Because it’s cured, the salmon has a firm texture rather than being flaky. We serve most of it in our appetizer with Yukon Gold potato cakes, goat cheese and caper dill creme fraiche, but we also serve it in Eggs Benedict on our Sunday brunch.”

The smoker at Canoe isn’t reserved just for the salmon. Basford also hot smokes trout for a smoked trout take on Waldorf Salad, and on occasion he’ll smoke pork sausages or even almonds for his honey-poached pear salad.

But it’s the salmon that gives the smoker a workout day in and day out.

If you’re ready to expand your smoking horizons this year, try Canoe’s techniques for hot smoking and cold smoking and let us know what you think.

Canoe Seven-Spice Cure Mixture

The Canoe kitchen calls this recipe a “seven-spice cure” but it really contains six spices, two herbs and garlic along with the salt and sugar. You can store what you don’t use, but know that the garlic and fresh thyme will add moisture to the salt and sugar and the mixture will form a solid block after standing for some period of time. If you have more than you can use, spread the remainder on a rimmed baking sheet and dry it out in a 200 degree oven for more long-term storage. This will change the flavors a bit, but the cure mixture will still be usable.

scant 1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns

scant 1/4 cup crushed fennel seed

scant 1/4 cup crushed coriander seed

1 star anise

4 whole cloves

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 (3/4 ounce) packages thyme sprigs, stems removed

1 bay leaf

1/2 pound kosher salt, divided

1/4 pound light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine peppercorns, fennel, coriander, star anise and cloves on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until fragrant. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In the jar of a blender, combine toasted spices with garlic, thyme leaves and bay leaf. Process until blended. Add half the salt and blend until fairly finely ground.

In a medium bowl, combine remaining salt and sugar. Add salt/spice/herb mixture from blender and stir together thoroughly. May be made ahead and stored in an airtight container. Makes: 3 cups

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 17 calories (percent of calories from fat, 8), trace protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 1,061 milligrams sodium.

Canoe House Hot Smoked Trout Fillets

Whatever trout you don’t eat straight off the grill, or in the Trout and Apple salad recipe we’ve provided, would be delicious added at the last minute to a seafood chowder or used to make a smoked trout dip.

A 1 1/4-pound trout will yield two 6- to 7-ounce fillets.

8 (6- to 7-ounce) rainbow trout fillets

1/2 cup Seven-Spice Cure Mixture (see recipe)

Hickory wood chips

Carefully check fillets for pin bones and remove. Arrange trout, skin side down, on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with cure mix, about 1 tablespoon per fillet. You should be able to see the flesh through the cure. Refrigerate trout 2 hours uncovered.

Rinse trout until gently flowing cold water and put back on wire rack. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Preheat the smoker to 170 degrees.

Move trout to smoker racks and add wood chips on the fire. Be sure to maintain the smoker at 170 degrees. Smoke trout for 1 hour or until fillets are flaky. Do not overcook. Makes: 8 fillets

Per fillet: 217 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 35 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 100 milligrams cholesterol, 1,114 milligrams sodium.

Hot Smoked Trout and Apple Salad

Basford created this recipe as a play on a Waldorf salad. At Canoe, it’s served with pickled muscadines. You could add grapes to your version at home. You can use romaine lettuce or the suggested arugula for a more peppery bite. The cooked trout skin provide a smoky, crisp counterpoint to the salad. Basford says they provide the same textural contrast as a crisp piece of bacon.

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick

1 bulb fennel, cut into matchstick pieces

4 Canoe House Hot Smoked Trout fillets (see recipe)

8 ounces arugula

Vegetable oil

1/4 pound toasted walnut halves, optional for garnish

Make dressing: in a medium size bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, onion powder, garlic powder and parsley. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apple slices and fennel and add dressing to coat. Remove skin from fillets and break flesh into large chunks. Set skin aside. Add to apple mixture along with arugula pieces. Gently toss together, making sure to keep trout pieces intact. Add more dressing if needed. Divide salad between serving plates.

In a small skillet, film the bottom with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add reserved trout skins and cook until crisp. Top each salad with a piece of trout skin and garnish with walnuts if desired. Serve immediately. Serves: 8

Per serving: 276 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 23 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 16 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 52 milligrams cholesterol, 646 milligrams sodium.

Canoe House Cold Smoked Salmon

In this recipe, the salmon is “cooked” through the salt and spice cure. The smoking is just for imparting smoky flavor to the fish, so it’s important that the smoker stay at 90 degrees or below. Be sure you are working with coals and not with flaming wood or the smoker will get too hot. Keep an eye on the smoke level and you may need to add more coals if the smoke level drops. Keep an eye on the ice level as well. Because you’re not likely to be curing 6-pound salmon sides, we’ve reduced the curing time to 2 days to account for the smaller size fillet you’re working with.

A 4 1/2-pound salmon will yield 3 3/4 pounds of fillets.

1 4 1/2-pound Atlantic salmon, filleted

1 1/2 cups Seven-Spice Cure Mixture (see recipe)

Hickory wood chips

Carefully check salmon fillets and remove any bones. Arrange salmon, skin side down, on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cure mix. Cure mix should be about 1/4-inch thick. Gently pat it into place. Do not press it into the flesh. Wrap salmon in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 days. Keep the salmon on a sheet pan or something else that can catch any liquid that may drip from the salmon.

Rinse salmon until gently flowing cold water and put back on wire rack. The salmon is fully “cooked” at this point and could be eaten in this state although you’ll find it a little salty. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Prepare smoker: Create coals in a separate area from where you are going to smoke. Once you have some coals, if you have a multi-level smoker, place a baking dish full of ice between the coals and the salmon itself. Heat smoker to no more than 90 degrees.

Place the cured salmon high in the smoker. Be sure to have dampers in the flue open to allow the hot air to escape. Add hickory wood chips to coals. Smoke salmon for one hour. Be sure to check the ice level throughout the process. The ice will keep the smoker cool as well as cooling the air as it rises past the salmon. After one hour, check the salmon by taking the fillet out of the smoker and smelling to see if it has a subtle smoked smell. If not, return it to the smoker for 30 more minutes. If it seems right to you, then remove salmon from smoker and refrigerate, covered, overnight. The salmon is then ready to slice. Be sure to check again for any bones. Be sure to use a knife with a very thin blade and slice the salmon at a 35- to 40-degree angle and against the grain of the fillet. You want to get a little of the top of the salmon with each slice Makes: 3 pounds smoked salmon

Per 1-ounce serving: 62 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 9 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 22 milligrams cholesterol, 559 milligrams sodium.

Canoe’s House Smoked Salmon, Crispy Potato Cake, Vermont Goat’s Cheese

1/2 cup Caper Dill Cream (see recipe)

4 Potato Pancakes (see recipe)

6 tablespoons Goat Cheese Cream (see recipe)

8 1/8-inch thick slices Cold Smoked Salmon (about 1/2 pound)

1 shallot, finely diced, optional

4 chives, finely sliced, optional

On each serving plate, spread 2 tablespoons Caper Dill Cream. On work surface, spread each Potato Pancake with 1 1/2 tablespoons Goat Cream Cheese. Lay salmon on pancake and cut pancake into quarters. Arrange quarters on serving plates and garnish with shallot and chives if desired. Serves: 4

Per serving, entire recipe: 516 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 29 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 30 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 96 milligrams cholesterol, 1,252 milligrams sodium.

Caper Dill Cream

8 ounces creme fraiche

1/4 bunch dill, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons nonpareil capers, roughly chopped

1 shallot, finely minced

Salt and pepper

In a medium bowl, combine creme fraiche, dill, capers and shallot. Season to taste. Refrigerate until needed. Makes: 1 1/4 cups

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 30 calories (percent of calories from fat, 90), trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 13 milligrams sodium.

Potato Pancake

Basford emphasizes that you need “aged” Yukon gold potatoes for this recipe. Newer potatoes won’t make for a nice, crisp cake so don’t try this with freshly harvested Yukon Golds from your local farmers market. His two-step method of cooking the pancakes makes for a pancake that is crisp all the way through. In the Canoe kitchen, the pancakes are first skillet fried and then cooked in a deep fryer. We’ve adapted the recipe for the home cook without a deep fryer by baking the browned pancakes in a moderately hot oven.

6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled (about 2 1/2 pounds)

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut potatoes into matchstick pieces and season with salt and pepper.

In a 6-inch skillet over medium heat, add enough oil to cover bottom. Arrange 1 heaping cup of potatoes in skillet and use a spatula to press into a small, flat pancake. Fry until browned on one side, about 4 minutes, and then gently turn and cook 4 minutes on second side. Move pancake onto a rimmed baking sheet. Continue with the remaining potatoes. When the four pancakes are fried, put the baking sheet into the oven and cook pancakes until crisp and browned all the way through. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool slightly before using in salmon recipe. If made ahead of time, put in a 250 degree oven to crisp and warm before using. Makes: 8

Per pancake: 177 calories (percent of calories from fat, 35), 3 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 19 milligrams sodium.

Goat Cheese Cream

You could just use goat cheese for this recipe, but Basford likes to combine goat cheese with a bit of cream cheese for the luscious quality the cream cheese brings to the mixture. At Canoe they use Vermont Butter and Creamery Goat cheese.

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 ounce cream cheese

In the bowl of a food processor, cream goat cheese until soft, then add cream cheese and mix on high until fluffy. Remove from food processor and refrigerate until needed. Makes: 1/2 cup

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 76 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 5 grams protein, trace carbohydrates, no fiber, 6 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 60 milligrams sodium.


You can smoke fish to cook it, or you can smoke fish just enough to flavor it. Canoe’s executive chef Matthew Basford gives you the tools to do both.


Learn how to make Canoe’s salmon and squash salad

Learn how to make Canoe’s sticky buns