smoked

And now for something completely different: a new entry in the much-neglected seafood category on this site. I know this didn’t get past most of you, that is how not-so-secretly fish-averse I am. Sure, I’ve come around to mussels, to oysters (but only with the iciest champagne, please; I’m fancy); I’ve been known to make some limited advances in the areas of shrimp, lobster, halibut and tuna. But for the most part, my seafood appreciation level is pitifully low. Lest you think that I delight in this — proudly flaunt my “FISH-FREE KITCHEN” apron as if it were some sort of culinary triumph — the truth is that it feels like a failure. It bothers me. I fight it. I do not always win.

smoked whitefish from russ  daughters
skinned, boned smoked whitefish

But every so often, something sounds so wonderful, it pierces through all of my apprehension, which is exactly what happened when this recipe showed up in my Tasting Table email a few weeks ago. The recipe is like a tag cloud populated with every ingredient I cannot say no to: sour cream, Worcestershire, horseradish, Creole mustard (which I picked up just to see if we’d like it, and oh, we very much do), smoked paprika, celery, scallions, cayenne, lemon juice. And then, as if I hadn’t already fallen in love, the chef (Chris Shepherd, of Underbelly in Houston, inspired by Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt’s smoked-tuna dip at Pêche in New Orleans) serves it on Saltine crackers, something I haven’t had in my kitchen in too many years. It’s deliciously low-brow and high-brow and wait, we totally forgot to discuss the fish, didn’t we?

what you'll need

making the dressing
finely chopped celery
flaking the whitefish
mixing the whitefish dip

I suppose you could make this with tuna, smoked if you can find it; I don’t think this dressing would taste bad on shredded paper, if we’re being honest here, or more edibly, even egg salad. But Tasting Table told me to put it on smoked whitefish, and given that I live pretty much up the street from the greatest, oldest smoked fish emporium there is, it was an easy decision for this spoiled New Yorker (which also led me to the discovery of their sweet, lightly pickled cabbage salad, which will be my new addiction), but I think that no matter where you buy yours, this dip will a worthy addition to your bagel brunch, lunch, dinner or snack rotation.

smoked whitefish dip with horseradish
smoked whitefish dip, horseradish

One year ago: Perfect Uncluttered Chicken Stock
Two years ago: Granola-Crusted Nuts
Three years ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Five years ago: Spaghetti with Chickpeas
Four years ago: Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats
Six years ago: Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips
Seven years ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Eight years ago: Bretzel Rolls

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Fresh Spinach Pasta (great for both sides of the world, actually, due to spinach bumper crops)
1.5 Years Ago: Essential Raised Waffles
2.5 Years Ago: Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto
3.5 Years Ago: Ribboned Asparagus Salad

Smoked Whitefish Dip with Horseradish
Adapted, just barely, from Chris Shepherd via Tasting Table

I made a few changes; I skipped the Tabasco and the jalapeño, figuring that the cayenne (which I used much less of, hoping the kid would try this) would be enough for the heat we wanted. I also skipped the yellow onion; I don’t love it raw (I’d use red or white instead, if you’re like me on this) and figured the scallion and chives would provide enough onion flavor. Definitely consider this a flexible recipe and make the adjustments you think you’d prefer. Finally, I found that it made a little more dressing than I needed. We’re keeping the rest around for a future tuna or other salad.

You’ll want about 1 1/2 pounds whole (bone-in, skin-on) smoked whitefish to get 1 pound skinned and flaked. At Russ and Daughters (which my son misreads as “Russian Daughters” and no, we will not correct him), where I bought mine, their whole whitefish range from 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, and they will sell you half of one.

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Creole mustard, or a mustard that you prefer
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce (see Note; I skipped this)
1 teaspoon cayenne powder (I used much less)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped (I skipped this)
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced (and this)
1 pound skinned and flaked smoked whitefish
Salt and pepper, to taste
Saltine crackers to serve
1 tablespoons finely chopped chives, for garnish

Make the dressing by mixing mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, Worcestershire, mustard, paprika, zest and lemon juice, hot sauce (if using), cayenne (to taste), green onions, celery, jalapeño (if using) and onion in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place skinned and flaked whitefish in a larger bowl. Add dressing to taste (we used about 3/4 of it total) and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve with crackers, garnished with chives.