One of the best things about living in Door County, Wisconsin is the fresh whitefish that literally comes right off the boat directly to my kitchen. Weborg Fisheries, located in Gills Rock, Wisconsin, provides most of the whitefish to the restaurants in our area. The Weborg family has been fishing the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan for almost 100 years. The season goes from mid April to the end of October. At the end of the season, the Weborgs flash freeze filets so that local restaurants will have them throughout the winter.
I am always looking for new ways to use this delicately flavored fish. One of my favorites is to house smoke the filets then flake the fish and make a delicious whitefish salad with locally picked apples and diced fennel. I use a house smoker that goes directly on top of my stove. Though you can use an electric stove, gas really works the best. The wood chips are available at many places. I actually purchase mine at the trusty Ace hardware store down the street! I also have found them at Walmart and any store that has a nice selection of outdoor grills.
If you don’t have whitefish, substitute trout or event salmon. Remember to be careful when discarding the hot wood chips. Let them cool before tossing in the trash…..a mistake I made early on in my house smoking training! Also make sure your kitchen fan is on to ventilate the kitchen when the smoker gets going.
For the smoked whitefish
- one #1 pound pin boned whitefish filet, skin on
- 1/3 cup diced fennel or peeled shallot
- 1 tablespoon rinsed capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs of choice
- 2 tablespoons pepitas (substitute walnuts or pecans if not available)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- salt and white pepper to taste, if needed
For the salad dressing
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons chopped herbs of choice
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- salt and white pepper to taste
- one stove top home smoker (Chef Milligan uses one from Cameron’s….available on many on line cooking supply sites)
- 1/3 cup wood chips of choice
- one apple, peel on, julienned
- 2 vine ripe tomatoes
- 6 cups of mixed spring greens and/or arugula
To smoke the whitefish
Line the bottom of the smoker with foil. Place the wood chips across the bottom of the smoker. Place the grill piece on top and spray with nonstick food spray such as PAM. Put lid back on the smoker and place on medium high heat. When smoke begins to come out sides, it is ready to go.
Place the fish, skin side down, in the smoker. You can do about 3 filets if you wish although this recipe uses only one. Put lid back on, put heat to medium, and “smoke” for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Fish is done when it is firm to the touch. See photo above.
Let fish cool then flake into a bowl and proceed with salad.
To make the salad
Add all the salad ingredients into the bowl with the flaked fish and gently combine. Use immediately or refrigerate. Can be made two days ahead.
To make the buttermilk dressing
Place the mayonnaise and sour cream in the bowl of a food processer fitted with a steel blade. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Pulse to combine.
Add the herbs and buttermilk. Pulse to combine. Taste. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
To put the salad together
Place the greens in a bowl and toss with enough dressing to just coat. You will have some dressing left over. Add the julienne apples It will keep in the refrigerator for one week.
Divide the salad among 6 plates. Using a small ice cream scoop, place a nice scoop of the whitefish salad on each plate. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and garnish the salad with the wedges.