Stovetop smoking is one of the easiest ways to cook a piece of fish and make your kitchen smell heavenly at the same time. Sturgeon takes well to smoke, especially alder. Imagine smoked sturgeon with a bit of bacon, onion, celery, cucumber, dill pickle, cream and more dill. Aquaculture sturgeon is available year round on the west coast and is listed as a ‘good alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch. In The Herbfarm Cookbook Jerry Traunfeld suggests a simple smoker consisting of a cheap couple inch deep roasting pan with wire rack that just fits across the top and aluminum foil. You’ll find his description under herb smoked salmon where he brines and air dries the salmon. It’s a nice addition if you’ve planned that far in advance but not really necessary for sturgeon. It will take about a half hour to smoke so plan accordingly.
A cheap roasting pan, rack, and aluminum foil
A handful of alder chips for smoking
Sturgeon steak about a pound
Slice of bacon cut into batons
Clove of garlic minced
Medium onion sliced fine
1 or 2
Celery stalks cut into 2 inch batons
1/4 to 1/3
English cucumber peeled and cut into thick batons
2 or 3
Small kosher dill pickles cut into thick matchsticks
Most likely you’ll have a sturgeon steak that’s a bit less than a pound. I cut the two filets off the backbone for two servings although you could leave it whole until after it’s cooked. Put alder chips (one nice handful) in the center of the roasting pan, place the rack on top of the pan and the fish (cleaned and dry) on top of the rack then make a tent of foil and crimp it well all around the edges of the pan. It will take about a half hour to smoke so plan accordingly.
Place your smoker over a burner and turn on high. In four or five minutes you should see smoke escaping. Turn the burner off, leave the fish covered and wait 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, the fish should be perfectly cooked. If it’s a bit under done give it another blast of heat for a minute or two. If it’s overdone curse me all you want.
While the fish is smoking, lightly sauté one slice of bacon cut into lardoons with about a quarter of thinly sliced onion and a clove of garlic cut into julienne. Cut one or two celery stalks into thin batons one to two inches long and blanch for two or three minutes. Peel and cut the cucumber the same length, remove the seeds and cut into small wedges say a quarter inch thick. Blanch for a couple of minutes. For pickles I used 3 Zergüt kosher dill pickles cut into batons about an eighth of an inch. They’re small, no more than a couple of inches long. What I aimed for was more or less equal amounts of onion, celery, cucumber, and pickle but this time you’re going to eat this not me. Do what you like. Toss the celery, cucumber pickle in with the bacon and onion, wet it with a little cream (it’s your waist and your taste) and cook it enough so it’s not too runny. The vegetables are now ready.
Plate the vegetables, put the fish on top, and garnish with chopped fresh dill if you have it. Don’t be shy and eat the yellow fat, it really picks up the smoke. BTW it’s unlikely that you’ll ever use that pan for anything but a smoker after this. It warps and gets wicked stains but clean it up for lots of other smoked fish possibilities. Clean up isn’t so bad when the kitchen smells of alder and smoked fish.