Monday, August 1, 2011

Grilled Asian Salmon: a taste of the Pacific Northwest

Asian influences dominate in this savory grilled salmon.  Fresh ginger, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic combine with the sweet smokiness of plank-grilled salmon, making this a classic example of Seattle-style Asian fusion cooking.  Masters of the grill rejoice -- this recipe is straightforward and produces a delicious, healthy meal.


1 lb salmon fillet (approximate)
1 cedar or alder plank for grilling

Note:  Add an additional plank for each additional pound of salmon, and scale up the marinade.

Marinade Ingredients

2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable, soybean, or canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger root, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh chives or green onion, coarsely chopped (optional)

Note:  You can still use this marinade to good effect even without the plank.  For regular grilling, slather some oil on the fish scales, and move the fillet every few minutes to help keep the scales from gluing themselves to the grill.  Alternately, bake in the oven at 350 degrees, until the fish flakes with a fork but is not dried out.


1. Soak the plank in water for 2-4 hours prior to grilling.  Do not skip this step - a dry plank will catch fire.

2. Combine marinade ingredients in a small bowl and stir.

3. Wash the salmon, pat dry, place on a dish, and pour the marinade over it. Tip: After adding the marinade, flip the fish fillet so the flesh sits in the liquid and the scales face up.

4. Allow the salmon to marinate for 30 minutes (up to one hour) on the counter. If you choose to marinate longer than one hour, cover and put it in the refrigerator, but remember to remove it 30 minutes prior to grilling. Fish at room temperature cooks more evenly than very cold fish.

5. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Add the plank and allow it to heat up until it just starts to smoke.

6. Add the fish to the plank, scales side down. Grill for approximately 20 minutes with the grill cover closed, monitoring to ensure the plank does not catch fire.  Tip:  If a flare up occurs, reduce the heat and use a spray bottle of water to extinguish the flames.

7.  Remove fish from the plank. Allow the plank to cool before removing it from the grill.

To serve the fish as I've shown here, cook 1 cup rice with two cups water, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp sesame oil, covered, stirring once or twice, until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Chop a few raw veggies (shown: cucumbers, carrots, and orange bell pepper).  Combine the veggies in a bowl with 1 tsp rice vinegar, a pinch of fresh ginger, and 1/2 tsp sesame oil, and stir well.  Spoon the cold veggies over the cooked rice, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Pair with a crisp, dry white wine such as chardonnay.

A beautiful presentation takes a good meal and makes it a great meal.  To present food in an appealing way, consider the flavors, colors, and textures of the primary food, and compliment them in the side dishes.  In this presentation, the orange peppers and carrots highlight the warm peach tones of the fish, while the cool green cucumbers serve as a contrast to the fish but a compliment to the chives on top.  Note the similarity between the marinade ingredients and those incorporated with the rice and vegetables.  The reuse of ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar in both places creates a subtle undertone for the entire meal, creating a consistent thread that ties everything together.


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