This is as close as I've gotten to that classic Jewish deli style "smoked sable" recipe. Basically it's a dry cure and a light smoke, with the addition of some honey for sweetness and then that paprika that's so distinctive. Fresh or frozen sablefish (black cod) fillets are becoming more and more available. My local Whole Foods carries them frozen, and I've even seen whole black cod sold fresh. If you can't get sablefish, other fish you might try this recipe on would be bluefish and mackerel, especially Spanish mackerel. The meat will be quite different, but this method responds well to oily fish like these.
Course: Cured Meat
Author: Hank Shaw
2to 3 pounds sablefish fillets,skin on
Honey for glazing the fish
Sweet paprika for dusting the fish afterwards
Mix the salt, sugar and garlic powder in a bowl. Pour on a healthy layer of the mix into a lidded plastic tub that will hold the fish. I cut the fillets into pieces I imagine I will want to serve, so about 2 to 3 per side of a large sablefish, probably just two pieces per side with a typically sized black cod. Set the fish skin side down on the salt. Now use the remaining salt mix to massage into the meat of the fish. You want it covered with as much salt as the fish can hold. Cover the container and set in the fridge for however many hours as the fish weighs.
Remove the sablefish and rinse it briefly under cool water. Pat it dry. Set it back in the fridge, this time uncovered, overnight.
The next day, get your smoker ready. I prefer alder wood for fish, but any mild wood will do. Oak is nice, as is beech or maple or a fruit wood. Smoke the sablefish at about 160ºF for 2 to 3 hours. You want the fish cooked through, but just barely.
After the first hour of smoking, paint the fish with honey. Repeat this every hour.
When the sablefish is ready, move it to a cooling rack and paint it with the honey one last time. Let it cool at room temperature for about an hour. When it has cooled, use tweezers to pull out all the pin bones running down the center of the fish. They should slide out easily. Now dust the top of the sablefish with the paprika. Let this sink in for about 30 minutes, then put the fish in the fridge. You can serve it now, or when chilled. If you want to package it up to store it long-term, wait a day before vacuum sealing it -- this will let the paprika set on the fish.
Note that prep time does not include curing time. Once made, your smoked fish will keep a week or so in the fridge, and up to 6 months vacuum sealed in the freezer.