Thursday, April 10, 2014

Secrets of Salmon

Grilled Salmon is a very popular dish in restaurants, but it's feared at home.  Why?  Lots of reasons...

"Doesn't it stick to the grill?  How do you flip it over?"
"What about the skin?  Should you grill it or remove it?"
"How do I know when it's done?"
"A whole filet of salmon is too expensive to ruin on a hot grill!"

Fortunately, deliciously grilled salmon is super easy and I'm here to share a few secrets that will, hopefully, inspire you to try it!

You will need:
  • 1 Whole Filet of Salmon (Skin ON)!
  • Dry Rub for the fish (equal portions of each):
    • Sea Salt
    • Brown Sugar
    • Smoked Paprika
    • Fresh Dill (chopped fine)
    • White Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Lime Juice
  • NON-Stick Aluminum Foil

Stretch out a length of foil that is 2x the length of your fish, and double it over.  You'll want two layers of foil under the skin of your fish when you slide it onto the grill.  The answer to the question, "How do I turn the fish over without it sticking to the grill?" is simple; Don't turn it over!  Burp some olive oil onto the foil and lay your salmon (or any other fish, really) on top.  Slide it back and forth a bit to lubricate everything well.
Pour a tablespoon (or so) of olive oil into your hands and rub down the salmon filet.  You want enough oil on the fish to "hold" the rub, but you don't want so much that it saturates the fish.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lime into a small bowl and add a liberal amount of your dry rub.  Mix the paste well and rub it all over the fish.  The acid in the lime juice will actually "cook" the flesh of the fish a little bit, and color the meat a whiter shade than the surrounding area.  So; you don't want to have heavier concentrations of it on some parts of the filet, but not others.  Be as "even" as possible in your application of the lime & rub paste.

Now let the salmon sit, unmolested in a dark corner, while you build your fire.  The fish needs to be at room temperature when it hits the grill, so be patient.  It will darken in color and some moisture will leach out of the fish... this is normal.  You'd leach moisture too, if I covered you with salty lime juice!

Once your fire has warmed up and the grill is pre-heated, carefully slide the foil off of your cutting board and onto the cool side of the grill.  Grab the corner of the foil with some long tongs, and slide it over to the hot side.  You'll notice that non-stick foil is SLIPPERY, so it will slide easily all over the grill.  It will also slide right off of your cutting board, too, so don't drop the fish! Close the lid to the grill for 7 minutes.  Let the smoke flavor the fish and let some heat build up to "bake" the filet. 

After 7 minutes, lift the lid and check on it.  Several things are happening at this stage:
  • A light crust will be developing on the top of the filet, and the rub will darken in color
  • The oil will be bubbling around the edges of the fish, this is normal!  The double layer of foil and the skin on the bottom of the filet will protect the meat from searing or burning.
  • The meat is slowly coming up to temperature.
If you want to cook it a bit more slowly, and you want to add some more smoke flavor, simply slide the fish over to the cool side of the grill and close the lid.  The inside of your grill should come up to 400+ degrees and now you're essentially "baking" your salmon in a nice smoky environment.  Check the fish's temperature every 5 minutes or so.

When the inside of the fish hits 140 degrees, it's time to pull it off the grill.  Slide the filet off of the foil and back onto your cutting board.  gently, slide a knife under the skin on the bottom of the filet.  The meat should slide right off of the skin, in one whole piece, easy peasy!  Slice the filet, cross-ways, to portions of your choosing.  The meat should be firm, opaque, tender, and DELICIOUS!  Serve with a slice of lime and some fresh dill to garnish.

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