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Salmon Extravaganza

July 31, 2012

I absolutely love salmon.  My first experience with salmon was back in 1996.  I remember it so clearly, like it happened yesterday.  I was on a cruise with my parents to Alaska.  On the day the ship was sailing through Glacier Bay National Park, they organized a salmon bake out on the pool deck for the guests.  Since the majority of the passengers had spent the morning out on deck watching the pretty scenery of the national park and the incredible glaciers, and there was more to see in the midday, it only made sense for the crew to bring the food to us, rather than having the passengers make their way back to the dining room for lunch.  So, huge grills were set up around the pool and the salmon came out.  Fresh salmon filets were put on the grill and served up piping hot off the grill along with sides to hungry passengers.  It was the perfect Alaska day; temperatures in the 50s and 60s, bright and sunny with not a cloud in the sky.  All the passengers were lined up against the railing of the ship sitting on lounge chairs bundled up under layers of warm clothes and blankets and wafting through the air was the wonderful smell of fresh grilled salmon.  It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  It was the first time I’d ever had salmon and I just remember it hitting the spot.  The perfect meal for the perfect atmosphere in the perfect location.  I loved that grilled salmon so much that I went back for seconds and thirds!  Ever since then, I’ve been a huge fan of salmon.

Southeast Alaska and salmon fisheries have had a long history together.  The majority of the world’s Pacific salmon population is found in and around the waters of Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.  Salmon are generally born in fresh water before making their way out to salt water.  When adult salmon are ready to reproduce, they make their way back to the fresh water where they were born and spawn, ultimately sacrificing of themselves for the next generation of fish.  Canneries dotted along the fresh water rivers and streams in Southeast Alaska used to thrive on the business of canning salmon caught as they tried to swim upstream to spawn.  Today, tourists have replaced the canneries, as thousands of people flock to Alaska to watch the salmon on their journey back to their birthplace, or fly to remote locations in Alaska to watch brown bears feed off of salmon they catch in rivers during the summer months.

My husband and I both enjoy eating salmon and frequently make salmon for dinner.  It’s such a versatile and flavorful fish that’s easy to cook, so it makes for a good dinner meal.  The majority of the time, we find ourselves grilling salmon filets for a quick and easy dinner.  For us, that means marinating our salmon filets for a short amount of time to try to infuse it with some wonderful flavors before throwing the filets on the hot stove top grill and cooking it for 10-15 minutes before dinner’s ready!  Generally speaking, I’ll make a very simple marinade using whatever ingredients I have around the house.  Making a marinade for the salmon is as simple as mincing up a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, adding some salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Mix all the ingredients together, and pour it over the salmon filets to coat.  Store the marinating salmon in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it.  Of course, your marinade can be made of whatever ingredients you like that you have around the house.  It doesn’t have to be simple.  Sometimes, when we have green onions, cilantro, rosemary or thyme around the house, I will put those into the marinade as well.  You’d be surprised and how much flavor these ingredients actually do add to the flavor of the salmon.  You can also use dijon mustard in your marinade so that it emulsifies the vinegar and oil together.  Also, honey works well to give a hint of sweet.  And it doesn’t always have to be balsamic vinegar.  You can make a citrus marinade with some apple cider vinegar and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.  Also, sesame seed oil and rice wine vinegar also make a great combination.  Allow the salmon to marinade for at least 30 minutes, so that it can really absorb the marinade.  Ideally, you’d allow it to marinade for a couple of hours, or even overnight.  But, who’s that organized, right?

When you’re ready to make dinner, heat up a grill so that its super hot.  We use an indoor grill pan over our gas burners, but if you have outdoor space, this is the perfect item to just throw on an outdoor grill.  Make sure to spray some sort of cooking spray, or brush down the grill with oil to prevent the salmon from sticking and falling apart on the grill, because, believe me, it will.  Make sure that the grill is really hot before you throw the salmon down on the grill.  Salmon takes very little time to cook on the grill, like most other fish, so you don’t want a grill that isn’t hot enough, therefore having to cook the salmon longer and allowing it to dry out or flake apart.  When the grill is ready, gently lay the marinating salmon filets right down on the grill.  Depending on the thickness of the filet, it should only take about 4 minutes on each side.  After 2-3 minutes of grilling your salmon filet, rotate it 90 degrees in order to get some nice grill marks on the salmon.  Also, doing this ensures that the salmon won’t start sticking to your grill.

Once the salmon is a nice pink color on the outside, it’s pretty much done on the inside.  Salmon should be flaky when it’s finished cooking.  And you’ll see that the marinade we used for the salmon leaves a beautiful, and flavorful, glaze on the outside.  Grilling salmon works with any sized piece of salmon; small filets to larger ones, or even filets with the skin still on the salmon.

You can also serve salmon with a variety of different sides.  We like to use grilled or roasted vegetables for our side dish.  Roasted broccoli, perhaps with a wedge of lemon served on the side that you can spritz onto the grilled salmon filet and the roasted broccoli ties the whole dish together.

Sometimes, instead of grilling the salmon filet, what we’ll do is bake the salmon.  The process of baking salmon is really easy, and simple, and less actually cooking.  In a piece of foil large enough to hold the salmon and cover it, place the salmon filet.  Use the same marinade we used for grilling salmon, and pour that right over top the salmon resting in the foil.  As I always find broccoli to be a good side for salmon, I will usually throw broccoli florets into the foil package with the salmon and the marinade.  This way, the broccoli will steam along with the salmon, and it will take in the flavors of the marinade.  Seal up the foil package so that air cannot escape, and pop the foil package into a pre-heated 350 degree oven.  It should take a small salmon filet about 30-40 minutes to bake fully in the oven.  The broccoli will have baked and steamed right alongside the salmon and should be tender and juice.  Plate it up and serve it!  You can even serve it right in the foil packaging if you want.

Salmon is healthy and versatile and delicious.  There’s many ways to prepare it, many ways to flavor it, and many ways to enjoy it.  Ever since my first experience with salmon, and having it at an outdoor salmon bake while cruising outside in Glacier Bay National Park, I’ve always been a huge fan of salmon.  And now, I try to eat salmon anyway I can get my hands on it!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 3:47 am

    What a memorable way to have salmon for the first time. My husband and I enjoy salmon and prepare it often.

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