Friday, September 28, 2007

Something fishy

Well, Alaskan wild-caught salmon was on sale this week in Charlotte, so we bought some. Of course, the only way to cook salmon is on the grill:

So I took the salmon, put some coarse salt, black pepper, a little garlic, and some dill mixture on it, then threw it on the grill.

I've heard people say they don't like to grill fish, because it sticks to the grill. Let me give you a hint: fish sticks to your grill because you're not getting the grill hot enough.

I cook on cast iron; both my grills have cast iron cooking surfaces, and I would have to seriously question buying a grill that has anything other than cast iron for its food grates. Porcelain's a fad, stainless is flashy, but real, serious grilling requires cast iron. If I can cook fish on cast iron without having it all stick, then we know for a fact that fish is not doomed to sticking, just because it's cooked on a grill.

So here's how you cook fish on the grill.

First, get the grill hot. I know, you're not cooking steak; and the very fact that you are planning on cooking the fish a little lower indicates you've learned something. But you need to understand this: regardless of how hot you intend to cook something on a grill, you almost always need to get the food grate really hot. So when I cook something like chicken or fish on the grill, I get the grates hot first, then I lower the grill temperature when I put the food on.

If you have fish with skin on it, put it on flesh-side down. I do this before I turn down the heat. The idea is to sear the flesh on one side while the grill is hot.

If you try to turn the fish before it's seared, it will stick, and you'll end up with a piece of torn-up fish and really messy grates. So don't turn it too soon. How can you tell when the fish is ready to turn? It lets go of the grates. Let me re-iterate that. When you first put fish on hot grates, it will stick. If you leave it a few minutes, it'll sear through and release the grates, at that point, it comes cleanly off the grates and you can turn it. If your fish sticks to the grill, it's because you tried to turn it too soon, or else you didn't get the grill hot enough before you put the fish on it. This is the same principle for steak. As Smoky Hale says "When a steak meets the proper grill, they seize each other with the intensity of a pair of newlyweds. At the proper time, they will turn loose."

Once the fish is ready to turn, you can gently flip it over, reduce the heat, and cook it slowly, skin-side-down. At this point, I put a little butter or margerine on it, just to keep it from drying out.

I should probably admit I like sashimi, so I may like my fish a little less well-done than a lot of people. But it's a mistake to over-cook your fish. It dries out faster than you'd think.

If you cook the fish flesh-side-down first, then you get nice grill marks on the flesh side of the fish.

Notice that dill mixture's still a little green. You're not trying to blacken salmon, just get some nice char marks on it. I obviously turned one piece a little too soon, and didn't get quite the char marks on all three pieces that I wanted.

I like to eat salmon with red wine, but ABC ("Anything But Chardonnay") is fine. Tonight I drank a nice Zinfandel with my fish.

One thing about salmon, we never have leftovers out our house.


Stace' said...

That looks good, and I don't like salmon.

Gwen said...

My fish always sticks; thanks for the tip. I'll give it another try!

Ames said...

You can cook my salmon, anytime, baby. What are you doing tonight?