How to make salmon pastrami

Last summer I took my first trip to Katz’s Delicatessen for the famous pastrami sandwich.  While waiting in line for my sandwich, the gentlemen preparing my sandwich cut a chunk off of a small piece of pastrami and put it in the window for me to snack on while I was waiting.  First of all, brilliant, everyone making sandwiches should do this.  It’s like a sandwich amuse bouche.  Second, that instant is when I became obsessed with pastrami.  Since then I have eaten a lot of pastrami and nothing has even come close.

I wanted to start making my own pastrami, but then had the idea to use fish since I work at a fish house.  For this recipe I have been using Loch Duart salmon.  This is a Scottish salmon that is not only delicious, but it is also as close to sustainable as salmon gets.  It has a beautiful deep orange color to the meat.  The average fish I get is 12-15 lbs.

I start by filleting the fish.  Remove all the skin and bones.  I use fish tweezers for the pin bones, but if you don’t have fish tweezers, anything like needle-nose pliers will work.

After all the skin, belly and bones are removed, it is time to make your salt cure.

For the salt cure I blend 2 quarts of Kosher salt with one full bunch of parsley(stems and all), and one shallot.  Once you have blended, you should have lime green colored salt.

On a parchment lined sheet tray. sprinkle on one layer of the green salt.  Lay your salmon filet atop the salt and cover with the rest of the green salt.

Wrap and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, wash the salmon filet with cold water.  Pat dry with a paper towel.

Heat 1 cup molasses with 3 bay leaves.  After it comes to a simmer, remove from heat and let stand for a minute.  Once cooled slightly, brush on to salmon.  Cover both top and bottom of filet.  This not only lends a sweet depth to the flavor, but also helps hold your crust to the salmon.

For the crust, pulse one cup of coriander seed with one tablespoon of black peppercorns, one teaspoon of paprika, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Pulse until every peppercorn has been broken, but the mixture still looks coarse.

Once ground, sprinkle evenly over salmon to cover completely.

After you crust the salmon it is now time to give it a little smoke.  I burn wood chips on the stove until black.  You will need an old pan that you don’t care about destroying.  I have one that I continually reuse only for this.  Place crusted salmon filet into a perforated pan and cover with foil.  Place smoking chips on one side of another deeper pan.  Place perforated pan inside other pan, with fish on the opposite side of the smoking chips.  Leave covered until chips burn out completely(about 20 minutes or so).  Once finished wrap and refrigerate.  Slice thin to serve.


~ by Anotherfoodbloghuh? on February 22, 2011.

2 Responses to “How to make salmon pastrami”

  1. Hey Chef Scott. Have you ever tried to brine your salmon as if you were making a classic pastrami? Love the pics and the writing, keep it up!


    • Thanks for reading Dave. As for wet brined salmon…I never tried it Dave. I think that would work really well with cold smoking for a while. It would most likely keep the salmon really moist while drying(if that makes any sense). I’ll give it a shot and let you know how it turns out. Thanks!

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