Smoked Whitefish Salad
A staple at Jewish delis across the country, smoked whitefish salad is as appealing at breakfast time as it is at cocktail hour. If you don’t have access to whitefish, feel free to substitute salmon, sable, or steelhead trout.
- For the fish:
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 quarts cold water
- 2 cups cheap vodka (optional)
- One whole whitefish, gutted, skin-on
- For the salad:
- 1-1/2 pounds smoked whitefish (from above)
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced, plus additional sprigs for garnish
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon medium-grind fresh black pepper
- Whole leaves of radicchio or butter lettuce, for serving (optional)
- Bagels, bagel chips, or cocktail breads, for serving
Prepare the brine: Combine the salt, brown sugar, water, and vodka, if using, in a large shallow container such as a roasting pan. Add the fish, then cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. (If desired, keep the fish submerged in the brine by topping it with resealable bags of ice.)
Remove the fish from the brine and rinse thoroughly, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. (Discard the brine.)
When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes).
Place the fish on the grill grate. Tuck 2 or 3 balls of foil in the cavity so the interior gets more exposure to the smoke. Smoke the fish for 3 to 4 hours, or until it flakes easily when pressed with a fork and has an internal temperature of 150 degrees F.
Let cool, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Make the salad: Remove the skin and break the fish into flakes; remove any pin bones you find. (There are a lot of them!) Add the celery, red onion, lemon juice, dill, mayonnaise, sour cream, and pepper. Stir gently with a rubber spatula to combine.
To serve, mound the salad into leaves of lettuce or radicchio, if desired, and accompany with bagels or bagel chips, crackers, or cocktail breads. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.