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Barbecue Secrets

Recipe of the Week: Wild BC Pink Salmon Two Ways

Aug 26, 2011

I love pink salmon, the delicious but often overlooked species of the West Coast. During salmon season you’ll see pinks next to the other wild species like sockeye and coho in the seafood section of supermarkets. It’s just as fresh, just as delicious but often costs a lot less.

Most of the time I see fresh pinks packaged as whole, cleaned fish, but you can also get them in fillets in the freezer section. Here are two great ways to cook this excellent, wild, sustainable seafood.

Grilled Whole Pink Salmon in Foil

Makes 4-6 servings

The following simple technique gives the fish a more subtle and delicate flavor and texture than grilling over direct heat, and the orange adds a lovely flavor and aroma.

1 whole, cleaned 3-4 lb | 1.5 - 2 kg wild BC pink salmon (you can also do this with other salmon species or trout)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 Tbsp | 45 mL butter, at room temperature

2 Tbsp | 25 mL chopped fresh parsley

1/2 medium white onion, peeled

2 oranges

sprigs of parsley for garnish

Prepare your grill for medium direct heat. Tear off a strip of heavy-duty foil 21/2 times as long as the fish and double it. Spread 1 Tbsp | 15 mL of the butter evenly over the top surface of the foil. Place the fish on the buttered foil. Lightly season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper, and sprinkle it with chopped parsley. Slice the onion and one of the oranges into thin rounds and place half of the onion and orange slices inside the body cavity and the other half on top of the fish. Daub the remaining 2 Tbsp | 30 mL butter inside the fish and on top of the onion and orange slices. Squeeze half the remaining orange over everything and wrap the foil around the fish, sealing it tightly.

            Place the foil package on the cooking grate, cover the grill, and cook the salmon for 8–12 minutes, or until the fish is just done (about 140 to 150˚F | 60 to 66˚C). You can poke a meat thermometer through the foil in the last few minutes of cooking to check for doneness. To serve, open up the foil, carefully transfer the fish to a warmed platter, and pour the juices left in the foil over the fish (alternatively, it looks great served in the foil, too). Garnish the salmon with orange wedges and parsley sprigs.

Planked Pink Salmon with Pesto

Makes 4 - 6 servings

This is a classic way to plank BC wild pink salmon. Serve it with a tossed green salad and maybe some Fettuccini Alfredo.

For the salmon:

two 1 – 2 lb | .5 – 1 Kg  boned pink salmon fillets (or sockeye, if you can’t find pink fillets), skin on

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lemons for garnish

two cedar cooking planks, soaked in cold water overnight or at least a couple hours

For the pesto (for maximum convenience, you can use good-quality store-bought pesto)

1 cup | 250 mL basil leaves, washed and dried

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup | 75 mL pine nuts

1 cup | 250 mL grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup | 175 mL extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the filets with a little salt and pepper and set them aside.

            In a food processor, purée the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese with 2 or 3 Tbsp | 30 or 45 mL of the olive oil. With the processor running, slowly add the rest of the oil. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

            Coat the salmon filets with an even layer of the pesto (you’ll have enough pesto left over to toss with some pasta another day; it freezes well, too).

            Preheat the grill on medium-high for 5–10 minutes, or until the chamber temperature rises above 500°F | 260°C. Rinse the soaked plank and place it on the cooking grate. Cover the grill and heat the plank for 4–5 minutes, or until it starts to throw off a bit of smoke and crackles lightly. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the salmon filets on the plank, leaving room around each for heat to circulate. Cook the fish for 8–12 minutes, or to an internal temperature of 135°F | 57°C. Serve the salmon garnished with lemon wedges.