A medical-device sales rep, he lives in Bellmore.
How did you get into barbecue?
I've been cooking since college, but I've gravitated toward barbecue as a way to decompress from my fast-paced job. It allows me to focus on one task, something that can take 10 to 15 hours.
And then you started competing?
There are TV shows devoted to competitive barbecue. I wanted to see if I had what it takes. With two friends, I entered some Northeast events that are part of national tournaments sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. We didn't really know what we were getting into. We were competing against people who own barbecue restaurants or catering companies.
How was that experience?
There are brisket, pulled pork, chicken and ribs categories. There was a serious learning curve. Certain meats we were good at, others we needed to work on. We consistently placed with our chicken.
What is the secret to your chicken?
The judges are looking for skin you can bite through, not skin that slides off the meat in one piece. To get that papery skin, we take the skin off the chicken thighs, scrape off all of the fat and gelatin on the back of it and put it back on the meat before cooking. We will be competing again this summer. Instead of counting sheep I count brisket in my dreams.
Where did this salmon recipe come from?
I grew up on Long Island, where everyone associates Sunday morning with a bagel and lox. Smoked salmon is a challenge, but I wanted to see if I could do it myself. This recipe is not for lox, which is cold smoked. But it has a similar smoky flavor.
Any tips for success?
Brine the salmon to remove some of the moisture and infuse it with salt, and if the salmon's at room temperature, it will absorb smoke better.
Hot Smoked Salmon
Dan suggests serving this homemade smoked salmon at holiday parties with sour cream or cream cheese and good crackers or bread.
1/3 cup Kosher salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups water
Fresh cracked pepper, lemon grass, chives, garlic (optional)
1 pound salmon, skin removed
Hickory, maple or alder wood chips
1 pound salmon, skin removed
Pure maple syrup (optional)
For oven: Liquid smoke
1. Combine kosher salt, cup brown sugar and water in a plastic or glass container. Add cracked pepper, lemon grass, chives and/or garlic to container to flavor brine, if desired. Submerge salmon in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. Take salmon out of brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place salmon filet on a rack and allow to rest in a cool, well-ventilated place for 2 hours.
3. Preheat smoker or oven to 225 degrees
4. Put the rack with salmon on the smoker or on middle rack of oven (if smoking in oven, place a rimmed baking sheet on a rack underneath to catch drips). Smoke for 3 hours at 225 degrees until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of fish registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 3 hours. After one hour, brush the salmon with a thin coating of maple syrup if desired and brush again after 2 hours. You are looking for an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees.
5. Allow salmon to rest at room temperature for an hour before serving. Or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
Serves 10 to 20 as an appetizer.