When you live on an island where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a salmon you have to cook fish. The touch of smoke you get with this approach to lightly smoked, grilled salmon really kicks up the umami flavor profile giving it a heartier taste. The added benefit of this recipe is a fast cook on a regular Weber. The dish looks and tastes great.
2 – 2 lb. Coho salmon fillets
fresh or dry dill
Martha’s tartar sauce
Serves 6 with leftovers to combine with any leftover salmon to make a salmon dip.
1 cup good mayonnaise (don’t waste your time with Miracle Whip!)
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup finely diced dill pickle
2 Tbsp. capers
1 tsp celery seed
2-4 tsp. Tabasco (according to taste)
Combine all ingredients and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Keeps for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
With heavy duty foil, create a rectangular tray with a lip to hold the oil for the two fillets. Thoroughly wash the salmon fillets and pat dry (a wet fish will often steam before it cooks making it tougher). Then, set the fillets in your foil trays with skin side down. Drizzle with olive oil and smear to coat the entire flesh surface of the fish. Season with salt and lemon pepper to your taste, then add a dusting of your dill.
This method for cooking lightly smoked, grilled salmon works best with a hot fire. Several times before and during the cook at our place on Lopez Island, Posse co-founder Gary Jacobson, visiting from Texas, commented that he thought I needed to starve back the fire a little. It was getting too hot. But fish turns rubbery and tough when cooked slow on a grill.
The meat on a fish is so light that it seems to cook straight through at the same time with a light char on the surface. I bank the coals to one side of the grill so the fire is not directly under the foil. Lay the wood of your choice on top of the coals. Get it burning well. In the photos here, we used small, pruned branches of apple wood from trees on our property. (I also used apple for a recent smoked pork belly recipe.) Alder is also a popular choice in Washington State.
With the fish in its foil tray, I nest them on the grill away from the fire. I put the cover on the grill and wait.
With a hot fire and this portion of fish, it usually takes 12 minutes. Check after 10 minutes by inserting a knife in the thickest section of the fish between the ribs of the flesh, lightly pulling aside. If still raw in center continue to cook a little while longer. Pull immediately if done.
Put on cutting board and run a knife along the bottom of the fish to remove the skin. Cut into pieces and serve with lemon wedges and Martha’s Tartar Sauce (above), a recipe from Bryan’s wife.
Lightly smoked, grilled salmon is a great summer meal when served with grilled fresh vegetables. For our afternoon lunch on the island, we served with grilled asparagus and a salad made of fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes and burrata, a soft mozzarella.
“It was wonderful,” Gary said.