Cure your salmon to make a smoky flavour stick

THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff and cookbook author Cathy Barrow recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I have a gas grill and for the first time used a smoking box with soaked mesquite to cook chicken. I basically grilled them, but the smoker added taste. Tried this again with salmon and while the grill seemed smoky, nothing much happened to the salmon, just tasted grilled. Advice?

A: Smoke ‘sticks’ to a dry, tacky surface called the pellicle. Salmon has a lot of water content. To make the smoke flavour stick to the salmon, try a light cure – 12 hours with equal parts salt and sugar. Scrape the cure away from the salmon flesh, and place it on a rack in the refrigerator for another 12 hours. The smoke will infuse the salmon after this treatment. (Sometimes I brush a glaze of soy sauce and sugar on the salmon before and after smoking.) – Cathy Barrow

Q: My husband accidentally bought the wrong thing and now we have a huge bunch of parsley in the fridge. I’m looking to make a sauce, but not buy any other ingredients. I was thinking chimichurri, but it looks like I may need oregano? I have all the pantry basics on hand – garlic, oils, spices, etc. Any fun sauces I can whip up?

A: Traditional chimichurri is indeed made with oregano, but you can always leave the oregano out and make your own version. Parsley-butter sauce is also terrific on corn on the cob, and it makes it look a little dressed up. You could also try a traditional English parsley sauce, which is roux-based and creamy; it can be an acquired taste, but it sounds like you have enough to experiment. – Mary Beth Albright

A: If you have tahini, blend up with a garlic, salt and a tonne of parsley – delicious! – Kari Sonde

Q: I planned to whip up a batch of homemade mayonnaise, but messed up and it didn’t emulsify properly. Now I have a nice thick mixture of good-quality olive oil, egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and mustard. Any thoughts on how to use this? Would this work as a salad dressing base?

A: That sounds like a good save to me. It could make a tasty dressing for a noodle salad, a creamy cole saw or maybe over asparagus. – Ann Maloney

A: Whisk in two tablespoons of hot water. It will set the eggs and help the mayonnaise come together. – C B.

A: You can also use when making a grilled cheese sandwich! Instead of using butter, spread that mixture on the outside and fry. – K S.

A: I second what Kari said. Mayo makes a good spread for the exterior of your grilled cheese sandwich. It browns beautifully. Plus, you don’t have to warm up the butter so its spreads easier on the bread. – Tim Carman