20 May 2015

Smokes Like a Fish, Drinks Like a Chimney

There is something of a poetic northern-ness in a sauce made with smoked fish and vodka. Skål! 

Rose pasta sauce with smoked fish on homemade pasta.  Other than vodka, without the trimmings, is there a better way to get through the end of pantry and freezer season?

Smoked Fish Vodka Sauce with Fettuccine

2 tbsp olive oil
Use a vodka with some flavour in it, none of that invisible
stuff you bought in your teens early 20s.

10 cloves garlic, smashed (or less if you are afraid of garlic, but this really isn't overly garlicky)
2 dried red chili peppers
6 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
4 tbsp vodka
1/4 lb of smoked char (or substitute with smoked salmon or trout), torn or crumbled into small bits
4 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter

a three-egg batch of hand-made pasta, cut in fettuccine (or wider) size

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium.  Add smashed garlic and chilies.  Cook, stirring, until the garlic is softened.  Increase heat to med-high and add chopped tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to med-low.  Stir occasionally until reduced by about a third.  Add vodka, and continue to let the sauce reduce.

Don't worry about precise chopping or mincing of
ingredients, not only will it all cook down to mush, but
you're going to blend it up anyway.
Put a big pot of water on for your pasta. (If it boils before you are ready for it, turn it down to a simmer until you are ready.)

When the tomatoes are mostly broken down and the sauce looks thick, remove from heat.  Allow to cool enough to puree in a blender.  If you are fastidious, wipe your pan clean and pour sauce back into it through a sieve.  If you can tolerate a more rustic sauce, just return the blended sauce to your skillet.
Bring back to a slow boil after adding the smoked fish, then
reduce the heat and stir in the cream and butter.  Once the
butter is melted and it's all nice and evenly combined the
sauce is ready.

Re-heat the sauce over medium. When it starts bubbling, stir in the smoked char. Cook the pasta now.  When the sauce to returns to a consistent bubble, reduce heat to low and stir in the cream and butter.  When the butter is melted and the cream is combined remove from heat.  This should happen about the same time your pasta is cooked.  Stir a wee bit of the pasta water into the sauce for good measure.  Drain the pasta and serve with sauce.

Makes 4 large or 6 moderate servings.


I like this sauce for poetic reasons as well as gustatory ones.  Although it's roots are admittedly in penne alla vodka, it's a great pasta for northern latitudes: smoked fish and vodka.  This is not a light meal, but it's not so heavy it will put you into a coma either. Good comfort food for the distressingly cold evenings we're still experiencing here.  In May.

You can almost smell the smoked char through the computer screen, can't you?  To serve, garnish with chive (admittedly, chive is, in fact, growing already) and some old hard Italian cheese like Sovrano.

We emerged from a few weeks of fog into a stretch of sunshine, so at least we're starting to build stores of vitamin D again.  Back to fog for a few days, but sun promised in the long-range forecast.  It's all a bit maddening even when the sun is shining because it looks like summer... as long as you are looking at the sky and the sea, and not at the brown hills and the leafless trees.  Yet, ridiculously, I may need to mow the lawn tomorrow for crabgrass control, but none of the desirables are out yet.*  Definitely still pantry, freezer and booze season.

*Okay, that's not technically true. The garlic is coming up nicely and just this morning our rhubarb started to leaf out.  Early flowers like snowdrops, crocus and alpine primrose are out.  But seriously, it's mid-May already.

Make hay and all that.  We'll still head out into that brilliant light, completely under-dressed for what turns out to be a very frigid coastal hike.  We'll blame the icebergs for this instead of poor planning, but we all know the ocean will be cold for months still and the chilly onshore breeze will be welcome in July.  We'll go out to garden, and be too hot with the sun on our backs, stripping down to t-shirts... until we stop moving anyway and need to pile sweaters and gloves back on.  We'll wear our sandals, even though our toes are frozen, because for two full hours one afternoon sometime last week it was warm enough to get them out and now, dammit, it's sandal season.  We'll sit out on the porch wrapped in blankets because we want to have just one beer outside.

They make really good smoked char up in Nain, Labrador.
The only real proper evidence of spring is that trout season opened on the weekend.  And although I swear the best fish for this recipe is smoked char from the Torngat Fish Producers Co-op of northern Labrador I suppose some of your home-smoked trout** would work too.

**If you want to send us some of that home-smoked trout, we'd be happy to try it out for you before you make it... you know, just in case I'm wrong...


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I love smoked fish. What an interesting recipe. Curious to try this.

  3. If you do, let us know what you think. Thanks for stopping by.


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