One of my lifelong dreams has been to catch a salmon. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, eleven years ago, I thought all you need do is go to the Columbia River, drop a line in the water, and catch one of the thousands swimming upstream. Suffice to say that it’s not that easy, but with the help of my friends Ken and Todd, I have access to their knowledge, experience, and top-notch equipment. I couldn’t be more grateful for their friendship and generosity.
As you can see, I am holding a 13-pound Spring Chinook (or King) Salmon, hooked and reeled in by yours truly, and netted by the expert Ken Ritch, also pictured. Ken, Todd and I have been fishing every few days since mid-April and, while the bite has been slow, everyone around me has caught fish – except me. The jinx is now off and I have a fridge full of fabulous filets ready for some of my favorite salmon recipes.
For my money there is no better salmon in the world than Chinook and, in my opinion, the best method of preparing wild salmon is grilling filets on a cedar plank, with a brush of olive oil, a few seasonings, and some lemon slices. I sometimes will lay a few sprigs of dill across or between the filets. As shown in this picture from the multi-talented duo of Ken and Todd, the object of this method of cooking salmon is to get the plank smoking on a fiery, hot grill, charring the plank on the sides and the bottom and cooking the fish in something like 12 – 14 minutes. The fish keeps the plank cool enough on top so that it does not burn and it picks up just enough smoky and lemony flavor to make this, if you will, a sure-fire winner.
Another favorite of mine is actually a combination of salmon and asparagus roasted on the same baking sheet under the broiler. The salmon is marinated in and broiled in a miso, sake, honey glaze that enhances the salmon’s wonderful flavor without covering it up. The asparagus (and I’ve successfully substituted cauliflower) just gets a coating of sesame oil, salt and pepper. This is Miso-Glazed Wild Salmon with Sesame Asparagus from Fine Cooking Magazine. Another miso glaze for salmon that makes for a tasty and light dinner is Miso-Glazed Salmon with Green Tea Rice, also from Fine Cooking.
When making cedar-plank salmon I often cook extra in order to make a terrific salmon salad sandwich made with a mayonnaise seasoned with Piment d’Espelette, the zippy French paprika, that can finally be found in this country at stores like Whole Foods. The recipes are from Epicurious: Salmon Salad Sandwiches on Ciabatta and Pimient d’Espelette Mayonnaise.
Finally, a recipe that does not require high-quality salmon but is one of my favorite comfort foods these days – Salmon Cakes. For more on Salmon cakes and other fish recipes see my posts: Easy and Delicious Fish Recipes, and Tastes Like Liquid Summer.