Here, powerfully flavored bluefish is balanced beautifully by a wash of delicate hay smoke. Brownish straw is preferred due to its mildness, but a combination of the more commonly available alfalfa and timothy hays will work as well. We found the hay at local garden centers and pet shops; you'll need a few handfuls.
To make sure your pot survives, you can line it with aluminum foil. A run through the dishwasher should cleanse the pot of any resulting smoky smell, but you might want to use a beat-up pot rather than that pricey one you received as a holiday gift, just in case.
Serve with crackers or slices of good bread.
Make Ahead: The fish needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour before it is baked. The pate is best if made the day before you serve it, but it is good if served the same day. It needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight, before serving. The pate can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Servings: 4 - 6
Yield: Makes about 3 cups
- 1 1/2 pounds skin-on bluefish fillets
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large shallots, minced (1/2 cup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 2 large egg yolks, preferably organic and farm-fresh (see NOTE)
- 5 or 6 fronds fresh dill, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
Place the chunks of fish in an 8-inch square baking dish. Rub the fish on all sides with bourbon and the 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the shallots and bay leaf; cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are translucent. Add the white wine and reduce the heat to medium; cook until it is reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 8 minutes. Discard the bay leaf; transfer the shallot-wine mixture to a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush off as much salt as possible from the bluefish.
Use foil to line the bottom and sides about halfway up the inside of the heavy-bottomed pot you will use for smoking the bluefish. (That will help preserve the interior of the pot.) Add enough hay so the bottom of the pot is not visible. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place over medium heat. After 3 to 5 minutes, you should begin to see smoke emerging from around the lid. Quickly lift the lid and place the fish directly on top of the now-smoldering hay, skin side down. Cover the pot and turn the heat off. Let the bluefish sit in the smoke for 3 or 4 minutes, depending on the amount of smoke being produced; some hay smokes quicker than others.
Transfer the fish to the lined baking sheet, discarding any stray bits of hay; bake for 10 to 15 minutes or perhaps a little longer, depending on the thickness of your fillet. The color of the fish should have turned from a rich blue to a light gray throughout; it might be slightly browned on top. The fish should flake apart under the tines of a fork.
Transfer to the stove top (off the heat). While your fish is still hot, flake the flesh into a mixing bowl, discarding the skin. Add the shallot mixture, lemon juice, creme fraiche, egg yolks and dill. Use a fork to stir until thoroughly incorporated, being careful not to break up the fish too much.
Taste; season assertively with salt.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour — or, better yet, overnight — before serving. Discard the hay.
NOTE: This recipe calls for raw egg yolks. If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella, buy pasteurized eggs, available in select supermarkets.
From Teddy Diggs, executive chef at Ripple in Cleveland Park.
Tested by Jim Shahin.
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