Getting out of town is always a good idea, even when one lives in a good town. A change of pace, a change of scenery, a change in attitude, a mini-break always does good things. This weekend, I am taking you to the Hood Canal in Washington, where we will sit by the water, sit by the fire, eat oysters and fish, drink beer and wine, soak up the sun and breathe in the salty and fresh air. We will watch eagles soar and happily look over our pups as they relax, play, sleep, eat and walk in the natural beauty of the NW.
Four weekends ago, we got out of town and headed to my in-laws vacation home 2 hours south of Seattle in Hoodsport, WA. We have been there many times and enjoy every visit, but interestingly, we never once stopped at the waterside resort in Union, located a mere 20 minutes from their place called Alderbrook. Being that it was a sunny Friday afternoon and hunger pains were calling, as we rolled through town we decided to stop and have lunch on their patio (finally).
Of course, despite this being the nicest Spring in the region that anyone can remember, the patio was not open yet (even though it was 72 degrees!). BUT, they served “picnic lunches” which really was a fancy way of saying you could take the food “to go” and sit on the property, anywhere. The best part for us (of course), was that our dogs were allowed to sit with us too. We ordered a couple of drinks and strolled down to the lawn which was right at waters edge. I went back to the car, collected Buddy and Ginger, and then the four of us settled into Adirondack chairs and watched a man collect many bags of oysters. Many!
And as the hours passed, starring at the water, the sky, the flora and fauna, a cart appeared and they were served water-side on the dock, being freshly-shucked as the happy guests strolled by.
The lunch menu was extensive but not so large as to overwhelm. It showcased the abundance of seafood we are blessed with in the Pacific Northwest and also provided plenty of alternatives to satisfy those that did not want to eat fish; the burger we tried the next day proved to be one of the very best (sorry Burger Stand)!
We were hankering for a well-concocted batch of fish and chips, and along with a couple of local beers, we ordered that as well as the brown sugar steelhead naan “sandwich”. The fish and chips were thickly battered, cooked to the perfect state of golden brown, moist, tender and best of all, not soggily dripping with oil. The tarter sauce boasted the perfect tang of pickle, partnered with just the right amount of dill.
It was the steelhead that we were most taken with though. So simple yet a delightful pocket of flavor easily eaten by hand; making a well-suited partner for the surroundings. One order came with two rounds of naan spread in garlic aioli, topped with a single leaf of lettuce, a sautéed fillet of steelhead and fried capers sprinkled atop. A wedge of lemon squeezed over just before taking a bite set up an explosion of flavor that was akin to the sound of a favorite jazz tune, keeping a beat slow and steady as expected but with a lick of sass thrown in.
Nearby was a pit of fire sending out lovely wafts of smokiness that mixed happily with the briny air. A happy bunch of “campers” were gathered ’round with sticks of marshmallows roasting.
Buddy was snuggled in next to me, snoozing peacefully under the shade of my scarf. Ginger had her own chair and eagerly looked over to the action at the fire pit, holding court as many other four-legged friends stopped by to exchange a quick hello as they moved on with their happy families
Needless to say, we had found what seemed like, an old friend. Sun, beachfront, comfy chairs and each other.
Mixed with the company of our pups, good food, well-made drinks and the casualness of a day off at the beach, we were ready to move in.
So as I write this, it should come as no surprise that we landed back to that happy place once again two weekends ago. You can’t recreate a moment but you can create new ones, which is precisely what we did. Sun, surf, substanence and seafood! Life is good.
King Salmon Naan with Fried Capers and Garlic Aioli
We recreated our (current) favorite menu item from the Alderbrook Resort at home, using fresh Alaskan king salmon, because that was what was most available to us at the time. Steelhead is a much thinner fillet which produces a crisp crust giving way to delicate flesh. Steelhead is really just trout disguised as salmon. King salmon is a happy substitute, also sporting a delicate flesh but is thicker, juicier and has more richness.
This is a simple preparation as well as a healthy alternative to eating grab ‘n go when time is short during a busy week. The naan we like to get is a brand called “Stone Hearth” and easily found at our local grocers. The aioli we used was our go to”mayonnaise, aka Wildwood aioli that we buy at PCC or Whole Foods. It is low in cholesterol and has a mildly sweet taste of garlic with the creaminess of mayonnaise but no chemical after taste. The best capers are sold jarred in salt rather than brine. Yes, it does seem counter-intuitive but those stored in salt actually retain less sodium than those in liquid. I always soak my capers in water and drain before serving to expel any additional, unneeded salt. Just as they serve this at Alderbrook, for added crunch, a nice hearty leaf of lettuce is used but for added color and perhaps a little bit of elegance, spinach can be substituted.
1 lb king salmon fillet, bones and skin removed
1/2 tsp brown sugar
Sea salt and pepper to taste
3 lemon wedges
Olive oil for grilling
2 TB Wildwood Aioli (or homemade garlic aioli) plus more for serving if desired
2 large, crunchy leaves of lettuce (Romaine, Red Leaf, Green Leaf or Butter Lettuce)
2 TB salt-packed capers, rinsed and soaked thoroughly in water for at least 10 minutes, then drained and soaked again.
2 rounds Stone Fire Naan, or other naan
Rinse and pat-dry the salmon. Spread the brown sugar over the fillet and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from one lemon wedge over.
Prepare a grill to very hot.
In a small fry pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Drain the capers and pat dry. Add them to the pan and fry for a few minutes until crisp. Remove capers with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel until ready to use.
Brush the salmon with olive oil and brush the grill with olive oil (I prefer a dampened paper towel). Grill the salmon on the top side for approximately 5 minutes without moving. It is ready to be turned when it comes away easily from the grill with a spatula. Grill the second side until just barely cooked in the center, only a few minutes more.
Meanwhile, as the salmon is cooking on the second side, add the naan to the grill. Cook them on each side until slight grill marks form and the bread is soft and warm.
Slather each naan with 1 TB aioli, top with one leaf of lettuce. Divide the fish among the two pieces of naan and top with a sprinkling of capers.
Serve with a wedge of lemon and perhaps a side of sliced tomatoes.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom (Pat), Mom (Lois), Mom (Linda), Mom (Talita), Mom (Doris), Sis (Laura), Sis (Christine) and Sis (Irma),; all of the lovely mothers in our family!!!!