RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
OK, what is Sunday brunch without some smoked fish? Delicious. If only you didn't need a whole lot of fancy equipment or a separate smokehouse to make your own. Well, that's what we're going to do today. As part of our Do Try This At Home series, reporter Deena Prichep learned how to make moist, flavorful smoked fish in a regular old kitchen in Portland, Ore.
DEENA PRICHEP, BYLINE: Cookbook author Ivy Manning is the sort of person who makes her own pickles, her own hot sauce, her own crackers. So when it comes to smoking fish, she doesn't look for someone with a smokehouse or fuss with expensive backyard smokers. Manning starts in her kitchen with a wok. You can use any bake pan as long as it doesn't have a nonstick coating.
IVY MANNING: So it's a carbon-steel wok. This is my old Joyce Chen. It's seen a lot of use.
PRICHEP: To turn the wok into a smoker, Manning draws on her intrepid spirit and a whole lot of tinfoil. She lays down a crosshatch of foil, covering the bottom with a few inches overhanging.
MANNING: And what this does is just covers the wok completely so that we're smoking the fish and not the wok.
PRICHEP: Manning spreads out some trout fillets on a lightly-oiled cake rack. You can also use a metal steamer basket - anything that fits inside the pan. Then she seasons them with a bit of salt and brown sugar.
MANNING: It draws out of some of the moisture in the fish. And that actually helps the smoke stick when we put it in the smoker.
PRICHEP: Of course, to complete the smoker, you need smoke. Usually this comes from smoldering wood chips, alder or apple or mesquite, that you buy at the store. But Manning just opens up her pantry.
MANNING: So dry rice - uncooked rice - and then loose leaf green tea, you can tear open packets if you like. Just about anything will burn and create smoke.
PRICHEP: And it doesn't take much, just a quarter cup of rice and a spoonful of tea. You could also throw in some orange peel or rosemary sprigs or any other woody spices. Using something from your pantry isn't just easier and cheaper than buying hardwood at the store. It's also really good.
MANNING: Actually, for the delicateness of fish, I find that the rice and the tea actually works better. It's a little lighter, and it's a little more herbal. Green tea has a green flavor to it, like, almost as if you threw a fistful of herbs on a fire.
PRICHEP: She turns on the stove and lays the rack of fish fillets over this little pile of tea and rice, raised up with a few more balls of tinfoil. Once the wisps of smoke start rising, turn the flame down. We're aiming for smoking, not charring. Then put on the lid, and fold the overhanging foil around it to create a nice, tight seal because there will be some smoke. And depending on how the fuel burns and how tightly the pan is sealed, there could be a lot of smoke.
MANNING: So it's really important to turn on your exhaust fan full blast, and open a window and possibly take the batteries, only temporarily, out of your smoke alarm.
PRICHEP: Of course, we're not endorsing disabling your smoke alarm. Manning does say temporarily. And after about 15, 20 minutes of smoke swirling around inside, it's done.
MANNING: So loosen the foil a little bit. Open it away from you so you don't bathe yourself in smoke. So you'll see that the fish flakes easily, and it's opaque all the way through.
PRICHEP: At this point, you can do pretty much anything you want with the smoked trout. Flake it onto a salad, or stir it into your breakfast scramble. Manning's favorite is to lay it out as part of a smorgasbord with some pickled onions, creme fraiche, crackers - in her case, homemade.
MANNING: Oh, yeah, it so good when it's warm. And just in the finish, you get just, like, a little bit of smokiness. But the fish is so moist. It's so delicious.
PRICHEP: Cleaning up is easy, too. Just toss the foil in the recycling and goodbye smoker. For NPR News, I'm Deena Prichep in Portland, Ore.
MARTIN: And a note, while the fish has been smoked, it has not been preserved. You will still need to refrigerate it if you have any leftovers.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.