Alaskan King salmon, food writing, recipes, smoked cherries, smoked king salmon, smoked salmon on a Mak 2 Star General pellet grill
I have never been fly fishing. I have been fly-in, then fish-fishing though and do realize how lucky that is. I recently saw a picture of my nephew with his first-caught fish. I smiled at the image because it reminded me of my first-caught fish which (by the way) was bigger than my then seven-year-old self and, I believe, weighed considerably more than me (yes, that sounds fishy to me too). I did truly “catch” the largest salmon on that fishing trip though, even if my Grandpa had to help me reel it in!
What ‘ya got there Derek? Need a hand?
…ok, you got this one by yourself?
Among many other things, Grandpa is a pilot (as is John and for that matter, my Mom). When I recall fishing in Alaska, I recall flying to the destination. I hate to fly in general, still to this day, but I liked flying with him (or is that why I am now scared of flying; upside-down flying and all?). Truth be known, I am not that crazy about fishing now either. I like the idea of it though. It sounds pretty cool for someone who loves eating and cooking fresh fish. My Mom always baited my rod for me and when I reeled one in, she was the one that got dirty taking it from the hook. I wasn’t a “girly” girl, but I didn’t like to get my hands in the guts (yuck) either. Good thing I had Mom for that.
Grandpa taking off
In any case, I am much more interested in cooking than fishing now, but I’m lucky to have Grandpa, John, Mom and sometimes my brother Mark, to fly-in and catch it each Summer. I am also lucky because Mom and John just came to town, bringing (in addition to fried chicken from Grandpa’s restaurant) king salmon + sockeye, caught literally the day before. Sorry Gemini, it just doesn’t get fresher than that, for me!
Grandpa still flies himself (!!!) to fish for salmon, at, well, lets just say he’s had over 90 years on Earth, let alone the years in the air! How many people can say that? He brings it back to his restaurant and fries it up for the Lucky regulars sitting around the counter (who likely caught wind of what George was up to that day).
Grandpa in action:
So, for our little eight legs, two medium legs and Tom’s larger legs, we scurry to the grill to cook up the rest of the catch brought by hand, by way of commercial airlines, insulated bags and cold packs, just in time for an unconventional heatwave in Seattle’s June summer.
Mom cooked her signature salmon for us a few nights ago (see below). It awaited for us upon our return home from work, at the ready, for flash-cooking and begged to be devoured quickly along with sweet corn, grilled asparagus and whole Rainier cherries bitten from their pits and spit into the garden in hopes of cherry trees next year (of course, we do this every Summer and the squirrels usually just haul them off, and alas, the two decades-old “planted” cherry trees in the yard, are non-fruit bearing).
Thanks for the great dinner Mom!
We brined the fish, smoked the sockeye and pre-smoked the king. At the end of the day…we had fish. Smokey, yummy fish.
King Salmon smoking…
Hot-smoked King (salmon, not Elvis)
Sorry, no photos available of the grilled king salmon with smoked jalapeño cherry sauce – I know you can use your imagination for this though.
Gin and Tonic Smoked Salmon
Today’s weather is a reprieve from a 91+ degree F heatwave that day (a paltry 88 for the high predicted). I brined my sockeye fillet in a mix of gin, tonic, lime, lemon, sugar and salt.
2-3 lbs fresh salmon fillet (mine were sockeye, skin on… Mom didn’t want me to smoke the king – oops, did a little bit anyway… ssshhhhh).
1/4 cup turbino sugar
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup gin (I used Tangueray)
1 cup tonic water (I used Q-Tonic)
Juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 a lime
Fennel fronds (or whatever herb you might want it’s scent imparted)
Making a brine is easy and requires less fuss than one would expect from the things I have read on the internet. Simply mix the brine ingredients in a Ziploc freezer bag, stir well to let the sugar dissolve and then add the fish.
The fish should be rinsed and patted dry. The skin can be left on or removed. You will want to let it brine for 4-6 hours or overnight for a real immersion.
Set your smoker to “smoke”. *We use our new Mak 2 Star General wood pellet grill for our smoking and the grill temp was between 180-200 degrees at that setting. Let it smoke until the thickest part reaches 140 degrees F. For us, it was 3 hours.
Easier than you thought, eh?
You can eat this straight from the bone or add to a cracker with dill sauce or creme fraiche + drink a gin & tonic (again, use your imagination, sky is the limit).
But whatever you do, do try this! It is outstanding! Smokey, but not too smokey. As spicy hot as you want it to be (1 jalapeño with seeds removed worked for me but go with your gut, it may or may not thank you later).
Smoked Jalapeño Cherry Sauce
This was a bonus because I had a bag of cherries and a fire-pot of smoke. I simply emptied them onto the grill (in my side cold-smoker tray) and let them smoke alongside the hot-smoking salmon. The jalapeño tagged along for the ride.
Hmmm…not sure where that eggplant ended up?
The cherries were perfect for eating with a cheese plate in that they were still raw but contained a mild smokey quality. I wanted to make a sauce though and the smoke was to be more assertive, so I took the cold-smoked cherries and threw them directly onto the grate with the king salmon as I smoked it the next day and let them smoke away (this is starting to sound like a Cheech and Chong movie).
Two hours later, I pulled them off, pitted them and threw them into my Blendtec with just enough water to make them saucy (1/8 cup?).
That’s it! De-lish! Stay tuned for rack of lamb with this sauce….
…or use your imagination!
Meanwhile…Buddy & Ginger are back to the observation deck awaiting their next meal.