“But won’t it taste muddy?”
It’s the question that most any angler, not matter the extent of his or her culinary prowess with more conventional fish, will ask when it the subject of eating carp arises. For many, it’s something that’s blindly accepted, sort of a sportsman’s axiom that you can just accept as true, without ever having to sit down and prove it to yourself. If everyone says it, why wouldn’t it be the case?
There’s also the mindset that carp, even if there were to be considered edible, simply aren’t worth the time it would take to prepare them. Filled with free-floating y-bones and protected under a layer of thick, armor-like scales, getting a decent filet off of a carp is no easy task, and given the popular belief about their flavor, many are left wonder why they should bother.
Sadly, there’s a bit of truth to all of this.
A carp pulled from dirty water, or mishandled after the catch, will possess a certain “muddy” quality. Prepared correctly and pulled from clean water, carp can be downright tasty, but one bad experience can quickly turn off even the most adventurous eaters. And those bones? They’ve foiled many a chef, even those who would consider themselves skilled with a filet knife.
So what’s an intrepid angler left to do? How do you get more folks eating this less-than-loved fish when such well-established prejudice exists?
Enter, the smoked carp pate.
Brined, smoked over hardwood and paired with bright flavors such as citrus and shallot, this recipe is how I’d propose serving carp to the more gun-shy eaters in your life. Thick, creamy and touched with a hint of salt and smoke, the end result is a dish that you could casually serve at a backyard barbeque or dress up for a fancy dinner party with equal success.
Just be sure to sit back and wait for the rave reviews before letting them know that carp was the star of the show
Prep Time: 12-24 hours
Cook Time: 2-3 hours, depending on thickness of fillets
1.25 gallons water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup carp, smoked, deboned and flaked
6oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons, diced shallot
2 tablespoons, fresh lemon juice
Black pepper to taste
In a large pot, combine the ingredients for you brine and stir until fully combined. Add the carp fillets, scaled but with skin still on, and fully submerge in the brine. Allow to sit for at least 12 hours in the fridge, but be sure to not let it go longer than 24 hours. Remove the fillets, pat dry and allow to sit uncovered in the refrigerator for at least an hour while you prepare the smoker.
Smoke the fillets at 200 degrees for two hours before checking for doneness. If they need to go a bit longer, let them. The end result should be a firm filet that’s taken on a golden bronze color from the smoke. Remove from the smoker and allow to cool before flaking.
Using two forks, or your hands, depending on level of dedication, remove the skin and flake the meat away from the bone. This will take a while, and depending on the size of the fish, could be a somewhat tedious process.
Combine the flaked carp, cream cheese, shallot and lemon juice. Stir together vigorously and season with pepper to taste. Allow the pate to firm up in the fridge for at least an hour before serving with crackers or a slice of crunchy bread.