Day 8 – Smoked Trevalla
There was a conversation on our Facebook page recently about the burgeoning affair TV viewers are having right now with the 1970s. Thanks to quality TV shows such as Paper Giants, Puberty Blues and Howzat! people too young to remember – or those who were not born until the 1980s – are being shown a whole other world of bell bottoms and desert boots, wide lapel collars, cork-soled platform shoes, column-shift cars with front bench seats, chronic smoking in the workplace, no random breath testing and not a scrap of natural fibres to be seen anywhere.
Then again, for those of us born in the 1960s, we are being confronted with our youth, mis-spent or otherwise. My response has veered from nostalgia and little yips of delight (Countdown !!) to hand-over-mouth horror when a repressed memory has been aired (those ugly, ugly haircuts).
And then there is the food.
Now is not the time to go into all the many culinary reminders of this decade – like fashion and music, there were hits and misses – but there are a few items that are worth re-visiting. Over the next few weeks – possibly months – I wouldn’t mind exploring some of those forgotten treasures.
Which brings me to smoked fish. Now for those of you permanently scarred by the childhood memory of smoked cod, you will probably go through life not realising just how wonderful and subtle and delicate smoked foods can be. Indeed if all you can taste IS the smokiness, it’s probably gone, like 1970s fashion, a tad too far.
The best way to try it for yourself is to experiment with smoking foods at home. You can go to the trouble of using a dedicated smoker – they are available at barbecue retailers in various sizes – or, if you don’t mind that it will need a thorough scrubbing afterwards, you can use your wok and a piece of tin foil. You can smoke legs of lamb, chicken and duck, whole fish such as salmon, even cheese, but for now let’s keep it simple – Trevalla is readily available around the country and sensibly priced.
Australia is notorious for applying different names for the same species of fish – Trevalla is NOT trevally, however it is also known as deepsea trevalla, blue eye (or blue-eyed) cod or sea trevally. The flesh is firm, with big flakes. Similar fish include warehou or red emperor.
As for the smoking process, there are a few things to note. First of all you will need to present yourself to Bunnings or a barbecue outlet or even a very big department store like Big W and look for a bag of smoking wood shavings. It looks like sawdust and comes in a variety of woods that give off different flavours and scents to the smoked meats. Just use your basic one, no need to get too technical but whatever you do, DO NOT use ordinary wood shavings from a workshop floor. Treated wood is a big no-no. A bag of wood shavings will last forever, giving you lots of opportunities to experiment.
Next, unless you have a huge extractor fan in your kitchen and are prepared to switch off your over-sensitive smoke detector, it helps to smoke foods outdoors. You can heat a smoker over a barbecue or you can buy a smoker that uses methylated spirits to heat the wood shavings. If you use a wok or other large pan, heat it over a barbecue plate (a kettle barbecue with hot coals is terrific) or on a wok burner of a Big Kahuna style barbecue if you have it.
Once you have gone to this considerable trouble, the rest is a complete doddle and, this being fish, very fast. From there, if you love the results as much as I do, it will only be a matter of time before you try your hand at all sorts of other food. It will open up your entire view. Much like watching recent TV shows.
4-6 trevalla fillets, depending on size (the fillets in this picture are about 130g each); sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; a little vegetable or olive oil; green salad and oven-baked sweet potato fries, to serve
If using a smoker: Either fill the heater with methylated spirits and light it according to manufacturers directions, or place the smoker over a heat source such as a hot barbecue plate or on the stove in the kitchen over medium heat. Place two handfuls (about ¾ cup) of wood shavings in the bottom of the smoker and spread to a very thin layer. Insert the grilling rack over the woodchips and cover with the lid. Allow to heat for ten minutes.
If using a wok: Line the base of the wok with a large sheet of tin foil. Spread a small amount of wood shavings over the foil to a very thin layer. Place a metal (notbamboo) steaming rack or round cake rack over the top (you will use this to rest the fish over the smoke) and cover the lot with a well-fitting lid and allow to heat up over a medium heat for ten minutes.
Pinbone the trevalla fillets using a pair of clean tweezers and then rub the skin side of the fillets with a little oil. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with sea salt and black pepper.
After the smoker has been heating for ten minutes, remove the lid (If you are using a wok, you might want to do this outdoors and then return to the kitchen shortly). Place the fish in an even layer on the rack skin side down and leaving a couple of centimetres between each fillet. Quickly cover again with the lid. Smoke the fish over a medium heat, without turning the fish over and without disturbing the smoker for six to seven minutes only. Any longer and the fish will toughen up.
Remove the fish from the smoker onto a serving plate and serve at once with oven fries and a green salad.
Remove the smoker from the heat and leave it outside until the smoke has completely cleared. To discard the wood shavings, wait overnight until they are completely cold, then wrap them in newspaper before disposing of them in the bin.
$18.60 for four people