An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Dec 6, 2013
08:29 AMThe Connecticut Table
Sublime Smoked Salmon Salad Propels Deep River Smokehouse
There’s something extraordinarily fishy going on in a nondescript commercial plaza in Branford,and that’s a good thing for James Thal. He’s the proprietor, chief cook and bottle washer at the newly opened Deep River Smokehouse - specializing in small batch smoking of locally caught fish — and at reasonable prices, no less.
An avid fisherman, Thal lives in Deep River and started smoking his own bluefish for friends and family 20 years ago.
“Every time I hit a school of blues in a feeding frenzy, I couldn’t help but grab my pole and yank ’em over the gun’le,” said Thal. Trouble was he hated the oily taste of bluefish, “So I brought ’em home, filleted them, brined and seasoned them, and then threw them in my hot coal smoker.”
Friends and family went crazy for it, so he took it up as a regular hobby in between working his day job selling diesel generators. Because of the rave reviews, he started smoking salmon on a regular basis because it was inexpensive and available year round before moving on to shad and shellfish.
Back to the salmon – when he started making his signature “salmon salad” people went crazy for that, so he figured he was on to something: he uses his hickory-smoked salmon and mixes in some dill, onion powder, sea salt and veggie based mayonnaise for a fabulous treat. I brought it to dinner party with our rich and famous foodie friends and everybody loved it. It’s loaded with salmon and just barely bound together with just enough mayo. I’m not a huge salmon fan and I still wolfed it down.
In business now for only a couple of months, Thal is having great success selling his product at local markets and specialty shops. The day I visited, he was smoking up a batch of salmon in his pristine smokehouse - glittering bright with spotless white walls and polished stainless steel. He dresses the salmon, rubs it with his secret spice mix and then smokes it for a couple hours before cooling it down and packaging it up himself.