Cooking for two Smoked, marinated fish adds piquancy to everyday omelet

My grandfather, a bricklayer by trade, fashioned his own smokehouse under the stairwell of a small Chicago bungalow. He filled it with fresh hams, homemade bacon and garlicky sausage to smoke for the family. The steps just outside that brick room proved the perfect gossip spot for my cousins and me. We always left his house smelling faintly of hardwood smoke and garlic.

Little wonder then, that given the choice, I gravitate toward smoked meats, cheese and fish. The aroma always transports me. When I cook, I enjoy adding smoke to everything I can -- even if it's just the addition of smoked paprika or smoked chiles. This summer I used my grill to smoke fish -- no masonry skills required.

Fish options I like for this smoking method include fattier, meatier varieties such as salmon, tuna, sea bass and black cod. Trout and Pacific halibut likewise taste great with a bit of smoke. In all cases, get thick filets or steaks with the skin on when possible to help retain moistness.

A brief marinade in balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce adds subtle sweetness, color and flavor; a few drops of natural liquid hickory smoke underscore the aroma.

Store-bought smoked fish, such as trout or salmon, can be used in this omelet. Reduce the salt added to the eggs if the smoked fish is very salty. I like to serve this omelet with thick slices of country bread, brushed with olive oil and broiled until crispy.

Smoked Fish Omelets

6 eggs

1/4 cup half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 ounces smoked fish, such as halibut, whitefish, salmon, broken into large chunks

1 1/2 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons very finely sliced red onion, rinsed

2 slices tomato, diced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Olive oil

Mix eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in a pitcher until smooth. Set the fish, capers, onion, tomato and chives near the work surface.

Heat a small (7-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Reduce the heat to medium and add enough oil to coat pan nicely. When the oil starts to be aromatic, pour in half of the egg mixture. Use a fork to gently pull the eggs that start to set into the center of the pan; tip the pan a little to allow the liquid eggs to run underneath. Keep moving the eggs in this manner until no liquid eggs remain. Let omelet cook, undisturbed, about 30 seconds, adjusting the heat as needed to prevent over-browning the eggs. Put half of the smoked fish over the eggs on one side of the skillet. Top with the capers. Loosen the edge of the omelet with a heatsafe spatula, then carefully roll the omelet out onto a serving plate, enclosing the fish as you roll.

Sprinkle the onion, tomato and chives over all. Repeat with remaining egg, fish, capers, onion, tomato and chives to make the second omelet.

Makes 2 servings.

Smashed Hash Browns

3/4 pound small potatoes, such as multi-color fingerlings, scrubbed

Coarse salt

Vegetable oil, for frying

1/2 medium red onion, halved, thinly sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons butter, or more as desired

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs such as a combination of sage, rosemary and thyme

Put potatoes in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, partly cover, cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.

Heat a large heavy skillet, preferably seasoned cast iron, over medium-high heat until drops of water added to the pan sizzle on contact.

Add 1/8-inch of oil to pan. Add the potatoes and onion. Working carefully so you don't get burned, use a potato masher or a heavy mallet to smash the potatoes to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Reduce heat to medium and let potatoes crisp without turning, about 10 minutes.

While they crisp, skewer the butter on a fork and move it around the inside of the skillet letting it melt down into the potatoes.

Flip potatoes and cook until crisp on the other side, adding more butter as desired. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the herbs. Mix well and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Food on 09/06/2017

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