The salmon of doubt
June 15, 2015 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Help me reverse engineer a delicious appetizer I had last weekend: salmon smoked in a moka pot. Lots of details inside.

Really, it was absolutely delicious and more than a little intriguing. Some heavy-duty googling brings up nothing about salmon smoked in any kind of a coffee pot, and I'd certainly never heard of it before. That, along with the way our waiter talked about it, leads me to believe that it is an invention of the restaurant.

The waiter brought us the pot in his bare hands (so it was cold), and fully assembled. He screwed off the top portion, and opened the lid slightly. When he did this, a small cloud of wood-smelling smoke escaped. He then poured the sauce into a small dish. A few minutes later we opened the top again and more smoke came out.

The salmon was in 1" cubes, packed pretty tightly into the coffee basket in the middle portion of the pot. It wasn't refrigerator cold, but not room temperature either, and it was thoroughly cooked (I know nothing about smoking foods, I may have the terminology wrong).

About five minutes after the pot arrived I lifted up the basket and looked into the bottom (where you normally put the water). There was a tiny bit of liquid, but nothing else.

The safety valve in the bottom portion of the pot had been removed and replaced with a black rubber valve with an X cut into it, a little bit larger but otherwise exactly like you would see on a ketchup squeezy bottle.

Last, I later took my toddler outside to run some energy off. We walked around the back of the building and saw a bucket with a smoldering log in it right outside the restaurant's back door.

Here's my theory: Smoldering wood chips go in the bottom with the raw salmon in the basket and the sauce in the top. The valve somehow allows air to flow into the bottom chamber (something something heat something something air pressure?), up through the tube, through the salmon in the basket, and up through the spout in the top of the pot, where it flavored the sauce (somehow). Brilliant, right? If my theory is correct, that is, but I know nothing about smoking and only a laywoman's knowledge of physics.

I would love to be able to replicate this at home. How would I go about doing that? The two biggest problems I see are the rubber valve (how to make) and the wood chips (how to burn). I live in an apartment and I don't really want to create a lot of smoke in my kitchen, although I do have some small balconies where I could leave a tray. I also have a kitchen torch. Clearly, though, I wouldn't need more than a small handful. Even the largest of moka pots is only 5" in diameter at the base.

And just in case anyone is curious, the sauce was heavy on the soy, with wasabi and something sweet and citrusy. Delicious.

Thank you!
posted by lollymccatburglar to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
this plus this plus a moka pot and ponzu.
posted by Infernarl at 6:49 AM on June 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Pure speculation:

The x-shaped rubber gasket is the clue here, and the fact that the moka pot was cold.

They have a bellows or some other device for capturing and transferring wood smoke, which has a small mouth that fits into the gasket. The gasket is really a one-way valve if it is like a ketchup valve. The bellows (let's call it) is filled with smoke from a smoker or wherever, and then the mouth is inserted into the gasket and the bellows is cleared, filling the bottom chamber with smoke. The smoke presses up through the fish and into the upper chamber to smoke the sauce. The fish is already poached or cooked in some fashion that leaves it receptive to smoke. This can even be prepared some time in advance and left on a warmer; drips from the fish are the source of the liquid in the bottom chamber.

Just my guess.

(on preview, Infernarl has a similar idea)
posted by gauche at 7:24 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Where specifically did you get it? The restaurant might have been reviewed and the reviews might include details of that dish because, indeed, it sounds like an in-house custom creation.

Next time you're in there you should straight up ask how they did it. Given how many people are in and out of a kitchen there's no real "secret" recipes anyway and if it's a pretty fancy place (which it sounds like it's at least aspiring to be) the waiters love to regale you with detail about their labor-intensive preparation process. Makes you tip more.

It might be a little weird to call days after your meal and ask, but then again it might not - call when they're not likely to be busy and say "you know that salmon moka pot thing? How do you DO that? I'm trying to explain it to a friend (etc.)"
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2015

Yeah, I think they used a smoking gun to push the cold smoke through the moka pot, and the moka pot is there as an interesting looking container, but not much more.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:07 AM on June 15, 2015

Ok, I see a consensus here. I'm a bit disappointed that the salmon wasn't smoked in the moka pot itself, mostly because I was looking for something I could replicate at home with an old moka pot I have lying around. I definitely wasn't looking to spend $100 on a smoking gun.

I guess it will just have to be a rare treat, then, for when I go back to the restaurant, and I will definitely be going back. For dessert at this same meal they served me Idiazabal cheese ice cream, which was sooooo good, and which may be my next Ask if I can't figure out how to make it first.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:51 PM on June 15, 2015

This would probably help with the ice cream.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:30 PM on June 15, 2015

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