Lemons Lemons are one of my favorite flavor enhancers but you need to be careful of the white pith. If you cook the pith, it turns very bitter. Cooking the rind or pulp is fine but never use the pith or seeds. I remember discovering this disturbing fact cooking chicken piccata for the first time. I thought I could enhance the flavor by cooking lemon slices in the sauce but instead I got a bitter taste I couldn't correct with sugar.
My Favorite Pan My favorite pan is a twenty dollar cast iron pan. I remember vividly how my step-father coveted his iron pan and warned us about not using soap to clean it. Seasoned and maintained properly, an iron pan can last forever. It is better than any non stick pan and far more durable. It's thick base holds heat better than any pan in my arsenal and prevents food from burning by dispersing the heat.
I smoke my own salmon so I'm always looking for different ways to combine it with dishes other than salads or pasta. Don't get me wrong, I love smoked salmon over a spicy arugula salad or a pasta with creamy garlic alfredo sauce. Insert drool here lol. The difference with this dish is salmon is the star. The rich smokey flavor of smoked salmon is mellowed with cream cheese and sour cream but also enhanced with capers, green onions and a plethora of other tasty ingredients to create an appetizer your guests will gobble up.
Smoking salmon is a really simple process that only takes a couple of hours. I'll cover the smoking of salmon, ribs, prime rib and many other cuts of meat in other blogs. For now, if you don't already smoke your own salmon, just get some nice Hot Smoked Salmon at the supermarket. There are plenty of good brands at any store. All have different flavors but that's not much of a concern. The brine or rub on the salmon will be masked by the other ingredients. What you will taste in this spread is smoke and salmon predominantly.
If you prefer cold smoked salmon or lox, feel free to substitute it. I love lox on a bagel with cream cheese, red onions and Capers. It's a classic pairing but I prefer hot smoked salmon in this spread because I have the ability to smoke it myself. The main difference between hot and cold smoked salmon is hot smoked cooks the salmon while cold smoked leaves it raw. Raw salmon doesn't bother me in the least, I just prefer the extra smokiness and different consistency that comes with hot smoked salmon.
This dish is pretty easy once you have the salmon. About fifteen minutes is all you will need. All you have to do is dump everything in a food processor sans the green onions and capers. I like the spread to have little chunks of onion and capers in every bite rather than a homogeneous consistency so I add it in the last stage. I like to pulse the food processor for ten seconds and then mash the ingredients down. Otherwise, many of the ingredients will simply float on the top and never get assimilated into the mixture. Figure on repeating the pulse and mash process about a dozen times before you will have a uniform mixture.
Add the green onions and capers and pulse a few times till the new ingredients are incorporated but you can still see chunks.
Scoop the spread into a nice bowl, keeping an eye out for any pockets of unincorporated cream cheese (mix manually if found). Garnish with fresh dill for looks but really no added flavor. In other words, skip the garnish if you are in a rush or don't care about presentation. It also keeps in the fridge really well since the salmon is smoke cured so make it a few days ahead of time and the flavors will meld over time.
Picking a cracker to hold up to this bold spread is just as important as the spread itself. At the moment, I am currently favoring a multi-grain cracker. I would avoid a thin flavorless cracker but to each his own. I just think a strong tasting cracker adds another dimension of flavor to the experience.