BRINE 1 (30 minutes)
■1 cup kosher salt
■2 quarts water
BRINE (8 to 24 hours)
■1/2 cup salt
■2 quarts water
■1/2 cup maple syrup
■1 chopped onion
■3 smashed garlic cloves
■Juice of a lemon
■1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
■1 tablespoon fennel seeds
■2-3 crushed dried hot chiles
■5 bay leaves
■1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1.Mix the first brine together and soak the shad fillets in it for 30 minutes, then drain.
2.Meanwhile, bring the second brine to a simmer, stir well to combine and turn off the heat. Set this in a drafty or cool place to chill it down fast.
3.When the second brine is cool, pour it over the shad and brine for 1-2 hours.
4.Drain and rinse off the fillets, then pat dry with a towel. Air dry in a drafty place — use a fan if need be — for 2-3 hours, or until the meat looks a bit shiny. This is an important step; you are creating a sort of a second skin called a pellicle that is necessary to seal the fillets. If you skip this step, you will have problems with the proteins leaking out from between the flakes of the meat, forming a white icky stuff that will need to be scraped off.
5.Smoke over hardwoods for 1-3 hours, depending on the heat. You want the shad to slowly collect smoke, and cook very slowly. Under no circumstances do you want the heat to get above 180 degrees.
6.Remove and let cool at room temperature before packing away in the fridge or freezer.
This is a great weekend project. The trout at Costco have been calling my name. I think they are heading for the smoker this weekend. Saltine crackers with a dollop of smoked shad salad, which might include diced onion, mayo, seasoning, lemon juice, and a pinch of chopped parsley. Sooo good! Awesome bite!
By the way, if you don’t have fresh smoked fish and have the craving, open a can of white albacore tuna for the salad above, but add a dash of smoke flavoring. I think I’ll go make some right now.