Always on the prowl for a great bargain when it comes to salmon I recently stumbled upon a fresh four pound piece of farmed Atlantic salmon marked at eight dollars a pound. Sold! When I arrived home Dayton removed the remaining pin bones, which were few, and cut the slab into 6-ounce portions. All but two pieces were immediately placed in the freezer… and we were on our way to planning a wonderful dinner!
How should it be prepared? It had been many months since we last enjoyed poached salmon, so that was a possibility. Another option was grilling. After much discussion we decided to grill the salmon, but in a way that would give it a hint of sweet smokiness. What we wanted to achieve, in essense, was the flavor of plank cooking without the plank. Our “plank” consisted of a 12″ x 8″ disposable aluminum pan containing a layer of mesquite, alder and applewood chips that had been briefly soaked in water before grilling. The resulting salmon was sweetly smoked, wonderfully moist and tender… and as smooth as butter!
Wood-Grilled Salmon with Dijon Mustard and Dill
Before cutting the salmon into serving size portions remove any remaining pin bones deep in the flesh by using a needle-nose pliers.
Chef’s Note: With the salmon placed skin side down on the work surface slowly run your fingers along the ridge from which the backbone has been removed. Any remaining pin bones will be easily felt by your fingertips.
Cut the salmon into 6 – 8 oz serving portions. Return what will be used to the refrigerator and freeze the remaining portions for future enjoyment. In the meantime, punch a series of holes in the bottom of a 12″ x 8″ x 1″ disposable aluminum baking pan:
Place a thin layer of chips in the bottom of the pan using a suggested combination of:
- alder wood chips
- mesquite wood chips
- apple wood chips
Chef’s Note: We would suggest that woods such as hickory not be used for the smoking of fish and seafood because of the boldness of their smoke. A more delicate smoke is more appropriate for seafood and fish. We’ve used a combination of the three as well as just one wood, apple, for fish. Let it be said, everything has been delicious…!
Transfer the chips to a medium sized aluminum mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to steep approximately 30 minutes prior to use. While the chips are soaking heat the barbecue and clean off the grates. When the chips have soaked drain them then transfer them to the aluminum pan:
While the grill is heating, grate:
- 1 lemon
Set the grated peel to the side. Mince:
- 1 T dill
Set the dill to the side. Place the aluminum pan with the chips on the grill over the flames:
Cover the barbecue with the lid. While the chips are heating mix together, for 2 – 4 portions:
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp gray salt
Chef’s Note: Gray salt is an unprocessed natural sea salt from France’s Brittany coast. It’s high concentration of minerals means great flavor! If gray salt is not available Kosher salt can be used as a substitute.
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Mix and set to the side. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and pat dry with a paper towel:
- 2 T dijon mustard, divided between the two
To the spice mixture add:
- 2 tsp of the reserved lemon peel
- 1 T of the minced dill
Sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over the Dijon-coated fillets:
When the chips have begun to smoke place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the chips:
Cover the grill with its cover and test the salmon for doneness with the tip of a sharp paring knife placed between the fleshy layers in approximately 15 minutes. The inner flesh should be just pink near the center as the knife is gently turned. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets being cooked so be mindful of the time these are on the grill in order that they not become overcooked.
Gently place each fillet on its side and remove the skin with the front edge of a spatula… it works beautifully and easily. Transfer the fillets to warmed plates in eager anticipation of that very first bite! To keep the meal focused on the salmon we choose as the side dish a bundle of bright green steamed haricot verts tossed with sweet cream butter, a touch of sea salt and several grindings of whole black peppercorns. This meal is full of surprises… Who would have guessed that salmon and Dijon mustard marry so well…? These fillets are supurb! The bursts of lemon… and the rich earthy mineral flavors from the sea… all make each bite a satisfying culinary pleasure… Bon Appetit!
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