Happy Hanukkah! Hanukkah starts tonight, the evening of December 16th. And no celebration is complete without latkes! Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Whole Foods La Jolla, this year’s latkes are inspired by another Jewish tradition: bagels and lox. Papa Bird’s famous smoked salmon, a shmear of crème fraîche, capers and home-made pickled sweet onions topped our latkes.
My daughter’s favorite book right now is a silly story about runaway latkes that sing and roll off to see the town. She loved helping put the potatoes, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts and onion into the food processor. She also mixed up the eggs and the batter. Kitchen helpers get the spoils of tasting the first batch, hot in the kitchen!
Here are some of my top latke making tips:
Use a brown paper bag to soak up the extra oil.
Peanut oil is great for frying. I used a mix of peanut and Avocado oil.
My house usually smells of oil for days after making latkes. This year I closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened the door from the kitchen to the outside, and had the exhaust fan on high. Success!
There is no need to make balls or patties. Just plop a spoonful of batter in the pan. The latkes will be lighter, lacier and crisper.
I’m happy to share one of my husband’s specialties: Smoked Salmon. After we enjoyed my uncle Bobby’s homemade smoked salmon so much, I gave my husband what we call a “Bobby grill” for his birthday. The Bobby grill is actually a Portable Kitchen Cast-Aluminum Grill and Smoker (Amazon link) but in my family, everything gets named and claimed!
This post was sponsored by Whole Foods La Jolla, who generously provided all the ingredients for this Smoked Salmon recipe and the following “latkes and lox.” Papa Bird points out that this recipe makes a “hot-smoked” salmon, even though it uses indirect heat. True lox is made with a cold-smoking process.
Although I usually seek out wild salmon, I found myself gravitating to the fresher-looking farmed salmon at Whole Foods. The woman at the counter explained that all of the wild salmon was previously frozen, as the Alaskan season has ended. The farmed salmon was fresh and had never been frozen. Usually I avoid farmed salmon as a big “no no,” but again I was educated. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source of info) writes: “Most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.” Whole Foods lists which fish meets Marine Stewardship Council criteria. Their salmon farmers use recirculating aquaculture systems, which is a “Best Choice” for consumers. It is also a more affordable choice!
Remove the skin the salmon and remove any bones. Rinse the salmon in cold water and blot dry. Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour the rum over it, covering completely. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then drain the salmon and blot dry.
Mix the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread one third of the mixture in a clean baking dish. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle the rest of the cure on top, patting it into the fish. Let cure in the fridge for 4 hours.
Set up grill for indirect cooking. The coals should be off to one side and the fish will go over to the other side. Place 4 cups of wood chips in a pan of water to presoak. Place a drip pan under where the fish will go, and preheat grill to 325*.
Rinse off the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Rub honey into the salmon on both sides. Toss 2 cups of wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the salmon on the opposite side as the coals, and over the drip pan. Toss 2 more cups of wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes. The fish should feel firm and break into clean flakes.
Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Papa Bird notes that salmon fillets work better than steaks. He prefers thinner fillets over thick, meaty ones. More surface area to come into contact with the cure and the smoke.
Click on any image in this gallery for step by step photos on how to make smoked salmon at home.
Papa Bird likes to use a mezza luna knife to remove the skin from the salmon. The kind people at the Whole Foods fish counter would be willing to do this for you, too.
Pour dark rum over the salmon and soak for 30 minutes.
Mix brown sugar, kosher salt and pepper to make a cure for the salmon.
Thank you Whole Foods La Jolla for the ingredients!
Bury the salmon in the cure and refrigerate for 4 hours. Rinse off well, so it won’t be too salty.
Enjoy with cream cheese and flatbread, or with latkes and creme fraiche, as in my next post!
Hi! I started Baby Birds Farm after the birth of my first daughter. I started sharing seasonal recipes featuring produce from our garden, eggs from our chicken, and homemade cheeses from our goat milk co-op. Fast forward a few years, another daughter, another business, and now we are just surviving and enjoying our busy life and food as much as we can. Join our journey of good food, farm-to-table restaurants in San Diego and healthy living!
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Abigail Burd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist, provides women's mental health in San Diego, CA. Specialities include managing anxiety and depression during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting. Learn more about my practice in Clairemont (San Diego) at AbigailBurdLCSW.com.