Smoking with pecan shells makes for a milder, but still tasty, smoky flavor. Its subtleness goes well with the mild flavor of fish. Soak the pecan shells in water 4 to 12 hours before using.
The first recipe below is for smoking trout and is adapted from Steve Wright’s excellent book “Ozark Trout Tales.” Use 10- to12-inch trout for the smoker. They’ll weigh up to 1/2-pound each. Keep the heads on the fish or take them off, as you choose. For efficiency, I remove the heads, making it possible to smoke more fish at one time.
- 4 to 6 trout, about ½ lb. each
- 1-1/2 quarts brine (recipe follows)
- 3-1/2 cups soaked pecan shells
- 1 cup rock or ice cream salt
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 6-8 cups water
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan, and heat the mixture until it’s dissolved. Turn off the heat and add an additional quart of water. Refrigerate brine until needed.
Brining improves the flavor of smoked fish. Rinse trout in cold running water and place in brine solution. I use a large oblong Crock-Pot with a lid that can hold up to a dozen fish if I decide to smoke more. Soak fish in the brine in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. (I prefer 24 hours.) Remove fish from the brine, rinse in cold water and pat dry.
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix the marinade ingredients, and pour mixture into a one-gallon or two-gallon, heavy duty, self-sealing plastic bag. Add fish and make sure they are thoroughly coated. Refrigerate fish in the marinade for at least two hours, making sure to turn the bag over occasionally.
Prepare the smoker and spray the racks with a non-stick oil. Arrange trout on the rack(s), making sure they don’t touch. Smoke the fish for 2 to 3 hours until fish flakes easily with a fork. Smoker temperature should not exceed 200 degrees F.