Today’s recipe comes from historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan. Fishtown was an active fishing village in Northern Michigan in the early 1900s, and today it remains as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in Michigan. These days, the fishing shanties on the dock are more likely to house chic boutiques and specialty food shops. However, you can still walk along the docks and observe smoke coming from the smokehouses, fishnets drying in the sun, and the fishing tugs coming in. Fishtown was designated as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
One of my favorite places for food and drink in Leland is the Cove, located right at the head of Fishtown, overlooking Lake Michigan. The ambience is great, the food delicious, and the beer is cold. However, the Cove is probably most famous for the Chubby Mary, an over-the-top Bloody Mary with a smoked chub poking out of the glass. Whaaat? Is that a fish in that drink? Trust me folks; the tomato juice, horseradish, lime and lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce soak up the smokiness of the fish, and it’s delicious. Mario Batali, who settled in the area, thinks so too, so it has to be good, right?
Another Fishtown special is Smoked Whitefish Spread. Smoked whitefish is a little hard to come by in Northern Virginia, so I make this with smoked trout with excellent results. There are variations of this recipe everywhere, but the foundation is the same for all – smoked whitefish is combined with something creamy and some seasonings to make a spread that will go with everything from tortilla chips to rye bread. It’s the perfect appetizer for your next dinner party. With a salad and some bread or crackers, it also makes a pretty decent lunch or snack.
Smoked Trout Spread
You can experiment with various kinds of smoked fish for this recipe. The original calls for whitefish, but smoked trout, mackerel, and smoked salmon would work ask well. I used one package of smoked trout filets with good results. Serve with thin slices of cocktail bread, crackers, or crudites.
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
Splash of Tabasco
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
8 ounces smoked trout (or other smoked fish)
Peel the skin off the fish, remove any pin bones and flake into a bowl, using your fingers to break the fish into tiny pieces.
Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add the yogurt, Tabasco, lemon juice, and salt and stir until smooth and completely blended. Fold in the scallions and trout until distributed completely throughout the mixure. Taste for seasoning and serve.
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