South Florida Smoked Fish Dip by Robyn Lindars
South Florida Smoked Fish Dip
For the fish:
- 6–8 ounces fish fillets, such as tuna, trout, wahoo, kingfish, mullet, sailfish or mahi-mahi
- 4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature, or cream cheese
- 2 jalapenos, deseeded and chopped
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the dry brine:
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Truvía Brown Sugar Blend
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
For the glaze:
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
PREPARATION: Place fillets skin-side down in a glass dish. To make the dry brine, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Rub on the fillets, including the sides of the fish, to ensure full coverage. Let fish dry brine in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 45 minutes (it will give up a lot of liquid during this time). Then rinse to remove the brine.
Thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels. Let air dry, uncovered, in a well-ventilated refrigerator for 8 hours, or until the fish has developed a shiny skin, to which the smoke adheres.
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To make the glaze, mix together the maple syrup and rum in a small bowl. Add woodchips to the woodchip box of an electric smoker. Place the fish in the smoker, then bring heat up gradually, starting as low as the smoker will go, and increasing the temperature in 25 degree increments until 225 degrees is reached. The goal is to avoid the release of a protein called albumin, a white milky substance, from the fish. (Albumin release will ruin the texture of smoked fish and dry it out.) After the first hour, baste the fish with glaze. Continue basting each hour until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees, at least 3 hours depending on the size of fillets. Basting every hour helps prevent release of albumin. Let the fish cool.
Remove and discard the skin from the fish, then coarsely chop. To make the dip, add all ingredients in a food processor, except fish, and pulse a few times. Add the fish a little at a time, and pulse until desired consistency is reached. I make mine almost whipped for scooping up on crackers. My friends call this “crack dip.” You will not be able to pull yourself away from the bowl!