When I was growing up, my dad worked for a Norwegian cement company with docks and silos in Long Island City. Every year, a couple of weeks before Christmas, his bosses overseas would ship dozens of sides of vacuum-packed Norwegian smoked salmon to him so he could distribute them to his ready-mix customers as holiday gifts. Of course, there were always leftovers for us. So many leftovers that during the month of December we thought nothing of piling salmon on bagels in an excessive way that shocked those lucky enough to be around when my father broke out his Wusthof salmon slicer. I still get Facebook messages from high school pals recalling our family's salmon "orgies." To this day, I don't consider it "bagels and lox" unless I'm looking at a quarter pound of smoked salmon - on each bagel half.
This childhood holiday tradition of smoked salmon overindulgence endures, even though my father has retired from the cement business and spends the winter in the Caribbean. When my sister arrived for Thanksgiving last month, she pulled out two sides of pre-sliced smoked salmon from her carry-on bag and handed them to me as a hostess gift. Now that Costco sells its highly rated store brand for less than $15 a pound, she can afford to be a sport. We polished off one side while she visited. But I reserved the second one for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.
I've already put smoked salmon in scrambled eggs, on top of potato latkes and sour cream, made salmon and goat cheese crostini, and prepared smoked salmon Benedict. On New Year's Eve, I'll pull out the pasta machine and make a pound of rich egg fettuccine. Saucing it with a full cup of heavy cream, some lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and smoked salmon is a quick and luxurious way to celebrate.
Before you buy your warehouse club salmon, check the "best by" date to make sure that the fish is at least a week away from this date. Keep it in the refrigerator and try to eat it all in seven days. For longer storage, freeze it and defrost the vacuum-packed salmon in the refrigerator overnight. Not everyone has my family's amazing ability to demolish a half a fish in one sitting. If you only want to eat a few ounces, wrap small packages of leftovers in plastic, then in heavy duty foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.
FRESH PASTA WITH SMOKED SALMON AND LEMON
No need to make the pasta yourself if you'd rather buy it. The vodka, along with the lemon zest, helps to cut the richness of the salmon, cream, and cheese.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup (about 2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vodka
1 pound fresh egg fettuccine
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Melt butter over very low heat in a saute pan large enough to hold cooked pasta. Add shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add cream, increase heat to medium, and bring to a bare simmer. Turn off heat and set aside.
3. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Reserve ½ cup water and drain pasta. Add pasta, cheese, salmon, vodka, lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup of reserved water to pan and cook, tossing to coat ingredients and adding extra water if necessary. Continue to cook, tossing, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust salt if necessary. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately.
Makes 4-6 servings.