Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon

 Steven Raichlen sends out an email news letter, "Up in Smoke." This recipe caught my eye and I clipped it to Evernote for those weekends when I know I want to get on the grill, but I don't know what to cook. This happened to be one of those weekends.

By the way, since first tasting NoDa Brewing's CAVU blonde ale, it's been my go-to beer this spring and summer. It's light and crisp, but still got a nice flavor to it. CAVU is an aviation term meaning "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited." The brewery describes it as their summer seasonal. I hope it becomes part of their regular stable of excellent beers. Besides, their tall boy cans are cool.

Back to the salmon. First, the recipe as found in the "Up in Smoke" newsletter:

Sweet and Crunchy Grilled Salmon
Brock Hale, of Baltimore, MDT

This incredibly simple treatment for salmon creates a show-stopping flavor for a readily available fish. It is a delicious contrast between the sweet and crunchy crust and the meaty texture of the fish. Top it with a store-bought mango salsa for an easy main dish, or use it with the recipe below for an entrée-sized salad.

The flavor when the salmon is paired with the salad is a particularly winning combination.
Grilled Salmon
4 4-6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed
Cinnamon-Sugar coating mixture (3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, by volume)
1. Preheat grill to medium-high and oil grate.
2. Place salmon fillets directly on the grill, and coat the top liberally with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Close lid and grill for 4 to 6 minutes. Sugar will melt and coating will adhere to the fish.
3. Flip the fillets, taking care not to break them apart. Coat the second side with the cinnamon-sugar, close lid, and grill another 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Remove from grill. Serve as a stand-alone main dish or with the salad recipe below.
Sweet and Spicy Salmon Salad with Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette
Serves 4
1 recipe grilled salmon (above)
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
2 large ripe mangoes, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, finely diced (optional)
Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
1 inch grated ginger root (about 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to mix.
2. Divide lettuce between 4 plates and top each with an equal portion of mango, tomato, onion, and jalapeno. Add salmon hot off the grill, and dress salad and fish with the sesame-ginger vinaigrette.
3. Serve with a chilled wine with citrus notes (Montes 2003 Sauvignon Blanc or Kris 2004 Pinot Grigio are good examples) to balance the sweet and spicy flavors of the salad.

I like sugar. But I also believe a little goes a long way. As I was putting all this sugar/cinnamon mixture on the salmon it just felt like I was doing something wrong. I was generous, but still held back much of what the recipe called for. 
Also, as a rule, I don't remove the skin from salmon. If you start by grilling skin-side down, the skin separates on its own. In fact, you can see it above to the upper right in the photo. It's much easier than taking it off when the fish is raw. I seasoned it again with the sugar/cinnamon mix after flipping.
Finished fish. Served it up on top of the salad with some corn and fresh bread.

We used store-bought ginger sesame dressing and I forgot to put the tomatoes on until after I was done taking pictures and started stuffing all this into my face. It was really quite tasty. Very fresh, colorful and healthy. Would we do it again? Certainly. Here's the thing though: The salmon didn't come out very crunchy. I think I was supposed to use more sugar. But I can't believe that it would help the overall flavor of the salad. Next time I might simply use good, old salt & pepper on the salmon rather than all that sugar. Overall, fun and tasty. It was a hit around the dinner table.

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