Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Smoking Salmon at Frantoio

When I'm in San Francisco my favorite restaurant is Frantoio in Mill Valley. I love it because it's genuine Italian food with wonderful fresh ingredients, mostly from the Bay Area.

Our first lunch upon arriving in San Francisco we had here: a simple pasta all'amatriciana, salad and fresh bread. We had lunch early with Sous Chef John and the frantoiano (olive oil maker) Patrizio who was in San Francisco for six weeks to press olives before heading back to Tuscany for the Christmas holidays.
Frantoio has a wonderful wood burning pizza oven that is used to make pizzas and bread and roast meats. John also uses it to smoke salmon, which is what we did today post lunch.
For two days before the actual smoking process John places the salmon under a mixture of two parts salt to one part sugar. The salmon is then weighted down using a baking sheet with heavier objects placed on top. Twice a day John bastes the salmon with the liquid the fish has cast off to keep it moist.
Once it's ready for the smoking process John gets a small fire going in the back of the pizza oven with about four logs. The wood used depends on the flavor he wants to achieve. He uses apple or olive or whatever else strikes his fancy.
The oven needs to be more than warm, but not hot, otherwise you will cook the salmon. The pizza oven has no thermometer, but I'd say we're talking somewhere around 150 F to 200 F. When the oven's ready John closes it until the flame goes out. The salmon is then placed in the oven where it will stay for 15 to 20 minutes. Once during the smoking process the salmon is very quickly turned to achieve a nice, even smoking process.

The flavor John achieves is amazing. There's nothing like smoked salmon and when it's freshly smoked it's unsurpassable. Why haven't I been doing any smoking in our pizza oven? I really don't know, but I will be doing a lot of smoking henceforth.


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