Usually, during Salt Awareness Week, I would warn you to stay clear of foods accompanied by words “brined,” “pickled,” “cured,” and “smoked.”
But today, as a part of Salt Awareness Week (and Kidney Health Month), I’m changing the tune a bit. And I’m gonna tell you to get ready to prove that warning wrong. Because, with a little creativity, you can approximate foods that are usually brined, pickled, cured, and SMOKED all without salt or high-sodium ingredients.
For a while now, people have been asking for a salt-free’d, low-sodium salmon spread and I too have been craving that luscious husky flavor of smoked fish. And while I’ve experienced wood-smoked fish at restaurants, I wasn’t quite sure how to do it at home. Without a wood-fire oven. Or burning my house down. That is, until I dug out some hickory chips my sweet sis-in-law had given to me as well as an amazingly simple recipe I found in the Southern Comfort cookbook.
Which brings me to Salt Awareness Week Lesson Number One: Always explore cool cooking utensils and ALL cookbooks, even those that use salt. You never know what you’ll learn. Or what will inspire you.
With this quick tutorial, I took out a tall, heavy bottomed pot. My steamer basket. My hickory chips. And my fish filet (I used sole but you can use anything you want).
And it turns out, smoking fish at home is super easy and will leave your home smelling like a cozy winter evening (not like a burned down building). Not to mention, give you a beautifully bronzed piece of fish ready for any number of culinary concoctions.
Which brings me to Salt Awareness Week Lesson Number Two: Go for it. Experiment. Try something new. And have both dust buster, cleaners, and fire extinguishers on hand.
Once you have your low-sodium, salt-free piece of smoked fish, you can seriously do anything. And I mean anything.
Make it into a dressing for a kale or brocoli salad by blending with with oil and lemon juice.
Turn it into a “tunafish” with a little low-sodium mayo.
Throw it over a Sunday morning hash.
Or make it into a spread with some chives, smoked paprika, low-sodium Greek yogurt, and salt-free crackers (which you can make on your own by altering this recipe with other spices in place of salt).
Which brings me to Salt Awareness Week Lesson Number Three: With a little at-home trickery, even the salties foods can be unsalted while still containing tons of impressive, DIY flavor.
So this weekend, no matter what you’re celebrating (the Derby, St. Patty’s Day, or Kidney Awareness Month), catch a bite of this smoked fish.
And chow on.
HICKORY SMOKED FISH SPREAD
adapted from the Southern Comfort cookbook
- 1/2 cup hickory chips
- 1 pound red or white fish fillets, skinned, boned, and cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 cup low-sodium Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh chives, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle spice (optional)
Place your hickory chips in the center of the bottom of a large part (large enough for your steamer basket or metal colander) and then place your steamer basket or colander on top*. Arrange the fish chunks on the steamer basket or colander and then close the pot tightly with a lid or foil. Then, place the pot on the stove and cook over high heat until there is a steady stream of smoke coming from the pot, about 5-8 minutes. Decrease the heat to low and cook for five more minutes.
To make the spread, mix the smoked fish, the 1 cup of yogurt, and the chives in a small bowl, using the fork to break up the fish chunks until everything is well combined. Add the extra 1/2 cup of yogurt as needed to obtain your desired fish-spreadiness. Then, sprinkle the top with smoked paprika and chipotle spice. Refrigerate until your ready to serve.
*NOTE: Full disclosure, heating the hickory chips this way will most likely mark up the bottom of your pot, so use an old pot that can stand to earn some smoking war wounds.
+ Sodium Count: check out the National Nutrient Database for the sodium count in your chosen fish (most fish land well below 100mg per 3oz)