Thursday, October 17, 2013

Best Grilled Salmon

You'll need some serious smoke for this one!

It’s been mentioned in this blog a few times that we enjoy salmon. And why not? We are lucky enough to live in a place where salmon has been a staple for thousands of years. To be perfectly honest, however, we have had some epic salmon recipe failures.

Salmon spaghetti sauce immediately comes to mind. Granted, we only tried it once, but the results were so unappealing as to render a second attempt out of the question. I am certain that someone, somewhere has managed to pull that one off, but not in the Poynor house.

Simply because the kids could pick the salmon out of it, salmon Alfredo was a good dinner recipe. Unfortunately, a lighter breakfast version we called “Cream Chipped Salmon Over Toast” was a total reject. Actually, it was sort of an opportunity missed to promote the healthy consumption of vegetables. 

“Okay, kids, what’s it going to be, cream chipped salmon on toast, or broccoli?”  

Another experiment that went awry was salmon enchiladas. Salmon tacos are good, so we naturally assumed we could expand the Mexican buffet. The salmon gets a little lost in the translation. That being said, our persistence in finding suitable Mexican pairings for salmon paid off in the form of grilled salmon and mango salsa. 

Since the readers of this blog seem to like salmon recipes, as evidenced by the number of hits the pickled salmon recipe gets daily, I’m offering up this favorite way of ours to grill and serve salmon. This recipe is for two, eight-ounce servings of fish.

This is all you need for the salmon part.

Start off making the mango salsa to give the flavors a chance to blend while cooking the salmon. (By the way, we double the salsa, as it would be good even served on an asphalt shingle.) 

Mango salsa: 1 ripe, peeled and diced mango; 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper; 1 - 2 chopped green onions (scallions); 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, more or less, depending on how much you like the flavor (cilantro is also called coriander, or Chinese parsley); 1 - 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped; the juice of 1 fresh lime (or two tablespoons of bottled lime juice); 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice. That’s it, just mix it all together in a bowl, cover it and let the flavors mix while the salmon is prepped and cooked.

In my opinion, the reason this grilled salmon works so well is the lack of direct seasoning on the salmon. The finished product has nothing but the pure, smoky flavor of the fish, which is beautifully enhanced by the salsa. We cook filets, but if you cook fish that has been cut in steaks, skip the part about removing the skin. (For everybody, only use wild-caught salmon, preferably Alaskan. Remember: friends don’t let friends eat farmed salmon.) 

This method requires a heavy smoke for the fish. Apple wood chips are what I prefer, but any sweet smoking wood is acceptable. Soak at least a cup of chips in hot water for about ten minutes while prepping the salmon, then drain the chips. 

Start out skin side down.

Prepare one pound of salmon by salting the flesh side liberally. Allow the salt to work into the flesh for several minutes, or massage it in, then lightly rub olive oil over the flesh. The olive oil helps to seal in the juices, preventing the most common complaint about grilled salmon - fish that is too dry. (Please note, however, no amount of olive oil will keep overcooked fish moist.)

To remove the skin, place the fish in a fish basket, or grill basket, with the skin side up for easy access. Put the basket on the grill, skin side down, close to the coals. (For you propane grill folks, I’m guessing the high setting would be what you want.)  DON’T WALK AWAY!! This only takes four minutes, or less. Monitor the fish filet, and when the skin starts to bubble and pucker a bit around the edges, move the fish to one side of the fire. Remove the skin by simply peeling it off. Inserting a fork tine just under the skin and turning the fork works quite well. The skin side of the fish is now cooked. 
A fork can be used to twist the skin off.

(Okay, you guys with the salmon steaks can jump back into the fun now.)

Finish up by cooking with indirect heat. With the fish off to the side of the coals, establish a smoky fire by lowering the coals, closing the lower vents on the grill, sprinkling most of the wood chips on the coals, and closing the lid on the grill. Propane folks, same deal: off to the side, get some serious smoke going, close up the grill.

Smoky indirect heat is the key.

Fish steak people, this is your cooking moment in the sun. Cook and smoke the fish, depending on the thickness, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add more wood chips if needed to keep the smoke going. Test fish by using a fork to see if the flesh flakes easily. If it does, the fish is done, don’t overcook it.

Pull the fish from the grill, portion and serve by covering with the salsa. When we grill fish like this, it’s all that’s on the plate. I don’t know what more you could want… except maybe an asphalt shingle for the extra salsa.

The finished product, and all you need for a complete meal.

No comments:

Post a Comment