Smoked Salmon Slicing Question [moved from Home Cooking board]
This is more of a "cutting" question, as opposed to a cooking one. We live in New York City, and have access to some of the best smoked fish and other appetizing you can get (Russ and Daughters, Zabars, Agata and Valentina, etc.). But we live in Queens, and can't get to these places as often as we'd like. Among the high end places that are near work (e.g., Citarella), we find that the people behind the counter rarely slice the lox thin enough (even after we pester them about it). So I'm thinking of buying a fillet knife and just buying a big fillet of smoked salmon and bringing it home and slicing it myself. Have other people done this? What kind if knife, exactly, do I need? Is it something I can train myself to do, or am I better off buying butchered lox?
We use a long slicing knife. Since you want to cut nearly parallel to the grain, a filet knife will probably bite too deeply.
You do NOT want to use a filleting knife for slicing lox! You MUST use a long slicing knife. This is THE application for a granton edge knife -- the sliced fish flesh does tend to drape over a regular blade and as you try to get thinner it will tear.
The trick is have the lox very fresh, very dry, and very cold. The longer the knife, the longer a continuous stroke you can make and the more uniform the slices can be.
The right tools makes this fairly easy -- though storing such a tool is a challenge: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...
Thanks for the advice. Do you think I'm correct that the thinness of the slicing makes a huge difference regarding the taste? I am curious as to the science behind this...
Also, I don't know a lot about knives- when we got married we assumed that expensive=better, so we registered for sets of Henckels. But I just read a Mark Bittman article in the Times in which he claims that inexpensive knives are often just fine. For a single-use knife for smoked salmon a couple of times a month or, at most, once a week, what can I get away with?
The Bittman article has been discussed. There is nothing "wrong" with getting expensive forged German knives, but the performance of far less expensive stamped knives certainly is not worth 5x+ the cost. The issue is really one of long term value, and I think the point of the Bittman article, and his recommendation for the inexpensive knife was only about meeting the 'total kitchen for <$200".
In a way that is not relavent to finding a slicing knife -- I doubt that you can track down a NEW granton edge slicer for less than $30, and even the Henckels and Wusthoff slicers are probably available for $90. There is a good chance that you could find a used slicing knife at shop that specializes in commercial stuff or even attend auction of a closing resturant, a great source of bargains.
I think the taste of thinly sliced lox is enhanced in several ways. The "mouthfeel" is different, as the fat more rapidly melts in your mouth. This results in more flavor being carried around before you can chew, which probably helps send aromas back through your nose, instead of missing some subtle flavors as you swallow. At least that is my theory.
A couple of times a year jfood makes a whole side of salmon gravlax and believe it or not it tastes great with a bagel and a schmear. The slicer of choice is a long, very thin "boning" type knife. If you thing of a boning knife and reduce the width to about 1/4", that's the best. Then you can take long controlled strokes through the salmon. Give yourself some practice time. Your first few cuts will be outstandingly lousy. You WILL get better.
With respect to thickness. When jfood was young, he thought a see-through slice of tomato was the perfect addition to a BLT. Over the years the slice has gotten thicker. Same with smoked salmon. Jfood likes it pliable enough to fold gently of the bagel, yet thick enough to get the taste buds going. Everyone will be different and cutting your own will give you that flexiblity.
Good luck and enjoy.