We met Cesar at 6:30 a.m. in the Ramot Forest of Jerusalem. The intention was for him to show us how he smokes fish. While the fish started its long smoke, we’d have breakfast. Some of you may recall that breakfast with Cesar involves vodka (yes, even at that hour).
Not just any vodka, in this case, but tarragon-infused vodka that was lightly sweet and absolutely delicious. He doesn’t extract the tarragon tincture-style straight into the vodka. Instead, he makes tarragon sugar by alternating layers of fresh tarragon leaves and sugar and letting that sit for a while. Then he sifts out the leaves and adds just enough of the tarragon sugar to the vodka to give it a hint of sweetness and tarragon perfume.
The vodka was poured before the coffee was ready. It was that kind of morning.
Meanwhile, Ricky got a fire going and made us a hearty breakfast of fried eggs plus the ubiquitous tomato and cucumber salad of the Middle East, and some good bread and cheese. The coffee came along about the same time as the second shot of tarragon vodka.
Once breakfast was served, we put some dampened wood chips and fresh rosemary on the coals.
Here’s our not-fancy-but-functional smoker:
We strung the fish (mackerel) through its eyeballs on the wire running through what would become the top end of the smoker.
And then we went back to eating breakfast, sipping beverages, watching the dogs romp, and communicating in a mx of languages and charades.
I tried a small nibble of the fish part way through its smoking and it was delicious, although Ricky thinks we had the fire going too hot. We saved the final product to share later with Cesar and his lovely wife Marina.