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Soy Ginger Salmon
Jul 27th, 2004

Last Friday I made the best fish I've made so far in my not so long history of cooking fish. And surprisingly it was my own recipe, not much of one really, but I think in some areas simplicity is best. Apparently grilling salmon is one of those areas. Jim fired up our rusting Weber bucket grill and propped a brick under the leg that's two inches shorter than the others because it just crumbled away and causes the grill to list dangerously and drunkenly and therefore necesitates the brick.... We were grilling salmon and chicken and boiling up some corn. The chicken was fairly dry and boring, the corn was past its prime and we didn't end up eating it, but the salmon was good, really good.

While the grill was heating up I defrosted a large fillet and used a knife to score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern. This allows the skin to lay flat on the grill and not curl up which causes uneven heating. Then I rubbed the salmon on both sides with a bit of sesame oil. I laid it skin side down in a pan and sprinkled one minced garlic clove over the top, pressing the garlic into the flesh and rubbing it around a bit (oooohhh, that sounds kind of dirty - the food page is gettin' kinky). Then I peeled and sliced some ginger and lemon grass and sprinkled them over the top. A drizzle of soy sauce finished off the marinade, just enough to wet the fillet, but not enough to wash away the other ingredients. Then I prepared a quick sauce of soy, sesame oil, minced garlic, and scallions - a few of which got sprinkled on the salmon as well. I made up a plate of baby spinach greens and watercress to lay the cooked fillet on, and by that time the grill was ready.

The salmon went on the grill skin side down over a charcoal fire with some mesquite mixed in. Jim put the lid on and let it cook for somewhere around 5 to 8 minutes, until the fish was opaque all the way through (don't turn the fish over). When it was done I slid it onto the prepared plate on top of the greens and drizzled the prepared soy sesame sauce over the whole thing. It was really miraculously good. The salty and tangy soy marinade brought out the sweetness of the fish and the garlic, lemongrass, and scallions on top of the fish were tender. And the salmon was infused with a delicate smoky flavor.

The inspiration for this recipe, if I can use such a lofty term, was an interview with Mark Bittman on NPR that I listened to on the way home. Mark Bittman does The Minimalist column in the New York Times and is the author of, among other things, How to Cook Everything, one of the cookbooks I recommended way downthread. He was expounding on his theory that most time spent marinating meat and fish is a waste of time. The marinade is never going to penetrate into the meat beyond an eighth of an inch or so of the surface, and as far as tenderizing the meat goes, the most you're going to achieve is urning the outer layer into mush. So he recommends simple quick marinades (definitely no longer than 30 minutes if that) or spice rubs for before the meat goes on the grill and then a sauce or paste applied once the food comes off the heat. So I used that as my guide for the salmon, and I just have to give props to Mark Bittman, it was definitely the best fish I've ever made.


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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com