---- — Several thousand years ago, people discovered that exposing fish to intense amounts of salt and smoke was a great way of preserving the catch for later.
Today, our smoking techniques are considerably more refined, and we do it more for flavor than as a means of preservation. And that makes it a shame more people don't think to reach for smoked fish as an effortless way to add gobs of flavor to the foods they love.
But first, a primer on smoked fish. There are two ways to smoke fish — cold and hot. Salmon, trout, haddock and mackerel are the most common choices.
In cold smoking, the fish are brined in a heavy salt solution, then exposed to cool smoke (85° F max) for up to several days, then frozen to kill parasites. Cold smoked fish — which is essentially raw — has a soft, delicate texture, an assertive saltiness and a pleasant, but not overwhelming, smoky flavor.
Hot smoked fish is more lightly brined, then smoked for a shorter time at a higher temperature (as high as 170° F), effectively cooking the fish. Hot smoking produces a fish with a more assertive smoky flavor and a meatier texture (though the lighter brine means it isn't as salty).
Both varieties often are seasoned, sometimes with just a bit of sugar, but also with black pepper, dill or other herbs.
Smoked Trout Noodle Soup
Not as strange as it sounds. Smoked trout has a meaty texture similar to chicken. And the rich, smoky flavor is the perfect match for a soup thick with noodles.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 c. frozen peas
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
Large sprig fresh rosemary
6 c. (1½ quarts) chicken broth
2 c. elbow pasta
2 c. baby spinach
2 scallions, whites and greens, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
8-oz. package smoked trout
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the garlic, carrots, onion, celery, peas, thyme and rosemary. Saute for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until barely tender. Remove and discard the rosemary stem. Add the spinach and scallions and heat for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a fork, flake and break up the trout into large bite-size chunks. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, then pile a bit of the trout in the center of each.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 320 calories; 80 calories from fat (25 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 41 g carbohydrate; 18 g protein; 5 g fiber; 630 mg sodium.
-- The Associated Press