December 14, 2018

The return of the sable to the table

While I was growing up, one of my favorite smoked fish was barbecued cod. It was atomic red and dripping with its own oil.

There was always a fight in my family to get some before it was all gone; my cousin Jeff had a particular affinity for loading up his bagels.

A number of years ago, that sort of cod seemed to vanish from delis and gourmet stores. You could still find it on the East Coast under its other name, smoked sable, but it just wasn’t quite the same.

When we opened Wexler’s nearly four years ago, it was one of those things that was on my mind that I really wanted to bring back. Little did I know how difficult it would be to source the fish and rediscover the lost techniques on how to cure and smoke it.

It turns out the fish is wild and abundant and has high sustainability ratings. We created a spice rub that gives it the characteristic red color without using any artificial coloring or dyes. I think we went through about 25 iterations of the recipe over the years until we got it right — frustrating, but well worth it. Now we sell it by the pound at Wexler’s in Santa Monica or through our catering.

I like it best on a great bagel with some cream cheese and red onion. But to dress it up for a Rosh Hashanah or break-the-fast meal, I serve it with colorful garnishes on a freshly made potato galette.


This dish can easily be made with the traditional latke recipe of your choosing. You can vary the garnish, too.

– 1 sprig fresh thyme
– 2 fresh garlic cloves
– Kosher salt to taste
– 2 Yukon gold potatoes
– 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 1/2 pound deli barbecued cod
– 2 ribs celery, shaved
– 1 watermelon radish, shaved
– 1 sprig dill
– 1 ounce crème fraîche (optional)
– 2 tablespoons diced Persian cucumber

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil with thyme, garlic and kosher salt to taste.

Peel potatoes and shave thin on a mandoline. Place in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Strain onto a baking sheet lined with a towel and cool in the refrigerator.

In a 10-inch nonstick or cast-iron pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Place the potato slices in the oil, carefully shingling one on top of the other in a repeating pattern until the entire surface of the pan is covered. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, invert the galette onto a plate and slide back into a pan on the uncooked side and cook for another 15 to 20 until the galette is golden brown and crispy.

Place the latke on the plate and garnish with remaining ingredients.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.