You could do drab hol­i­day fish, or you could do Columbia River caviar

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY DEN­NIS DAUBLE

Hol­i­days are a spe­cial time when fam­i­lies come to­gether to eat the bounty of their har­vest.

I don’t share my pre­cious Blue Moun­tain huck­le­ber­ries be­cause pick­ing them is hard work. Come to think of it, I don’t share morel mush­rooms ei­ther.

Things I read­ily share though in­clude fish caught from the Columbia River. While my rel­a­tives pre­fer a fresh filet, not all fish bite on de­mand.

Some­times you have to adapt your style to se­cure a place on the hol­i­day hors

d’ oeu­vre ta­ble. What fol­lows are a trio of fishy treats that com­pete well with veni­son sausage, goat cheese and ar­ti­choke dip.


Hope­fully, you caught a hatch­ery steel­head in the Han­ford Reach be­fore the sea­son closed, or your trav­els take you to where a one-fish limit is still in ef­fect.

If so, try a dry brine method of cur­ing, which be­gins by cut­ting filets into “swatches” three to four inches in di­am­e­ter.

Line the bot­tom of a large plas­tic con­tainer with a sin­gle layer of meat and coat the meat’s sur­face with a 4-to-1 brown sugar to salt mix­ture.

Re­peat adding dry mix­ture to ad­di­tional lay­ers.

Seal the con­tainer and place it in the re­frig­er­a­tor overnight.

While morn­ing cof­fee is brew­ing, wipe the ex­cess brine/slime from each swatch and lay them on a pa­per towel un­til they reach room tem­per­a­ture.

Place the fish in your smoker, skin side down, for four to 12 hours (de­pends on your smoker and the air tem­per­a­ture).

Switch racks to en­sure even cook­ing.

I might speed up the process in cold weather by mi­crowav­ing fish for two to three min­utes be­fore I put it in the smoker.

You prob­a­bly shouldn’t fin­ish your prod­uct off in the kitchen oven. I did that once and our house smelled like smoked fish for a week.


I con­fess to be­ing a con­nois­seur of sausage. (Don’t snicker.)

Alas, my hunt­ing days are over and beg­ging for freezer-burned veni­son from friends gets tire­some. Idea: what about that salmon roast in the back of the freezer?

Much like any sausage, the se­cret is in the flavor. Ex­per­i­ment with com­bi­na­tions of herbs and spices un­til you find some­thing that works for your taste buds.

More de­tailed recipes can be found on­line. For starters, lightly poach two to three pounds of salmon and com­bine with one ta­ble­spoon per pound, each of chopped garlic, chopped dill and chopped pars­ley.

Add lib­eral dashes of cel­ery salt, fresh cracked black pep­per, sea salt and a splash of fresh lemon


Place the mix­ture in the re­frig­er­a­tor, chill it and run through a meat grinder.

Fit the grinder with a sausage stuff­ing tube and feed the chilled mix­ture into the sausage cas­ing.

Twist the cas­ing to cre­ate 4- to 6-inch-long links, tie off in­di­vid­ual links with string (or knot them), wrap in butcher pa­per and store in the re­frig­er­a­tor overnight.

Brown links as you would for bratwurst and serve with fruit mar­malade and hot mus­tard on the side.

Jac­ques Pepin’s book “La Tech­nique” de­scribes how to fit sausage cas­ing to a wa­ter spigot in or­der to rinse and ex­pand it.

Beg, bor­row or steal a meat grinder.

Be­lieve me when I say that forc­ing the mix­ture into cas­ing by hand is no fun. Worst sce­nario is you screw up the sausagestuff­ing step.

If so, form the mix­ture into pat­ties and serve “salmon slid­ers!”


Moun­tain white­fish are eas­i­est to catch when they school near Chi­nook salmon spawn­ing ar­eas in late fall.

I re­move the de­vel­op­ing roe sacs from large “hen” white­fish and cut them into 2-inch-long or so chunks. The eggs are small, about an eighth of an inch in di­am­e­ter.

Brine the eggs for five to 10 min­utes in a mix­ture of one-half cup kosher salt to a quart of ice-cold wa­ter (give them a taste test af­ter five min­utes), re­move from brine, then rinse with cold wa­ter.

Re­move any at­tached mem­brane with your fin­gers or via a warm wa­ter rinse.

Place loose eggs in a small glass jar and seal.

White­fish caviar can be stored in the re­frig­er­a­tor for up to a week. The eggs are glossy, jewel-like or­ange, al­most too pretty to eat.

Serve this unique hol­i­day treat with a se­lec­tion of gourmet crack­ers and crème fraiche.


“Wait a minute” you say?

Dang adi­pose-fin lover! What about those wall­eye filets you have stored in the deep freeze?

Sushi is one pos­si­bil­ity, with the is­sue be­ing par­a­sites that in­clude round­worms in the flesh.

Rec­og­niz­ing that birds, not mam­mals, are the pri­mary in­ter­me­di­ate host for par­a­sites of fresh­wa­ter fish, raw fish is still not on my list of hol­i­day treats.

In my world, wall­eye are best saved for fish and chips.

And if you’re my very best friend, there might be huck­le­berry pie for dessert.


The roe of moun­tain white­fish makes for ex­cel­lent caviar if brined to achieve the right taste of salti­ness.


Brine a batch of steel­head and fire up the smoker to make a hol­i­day treat.

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