The chinook salmon fishing season has already started off the coast and parts of Puget Sound, and will soon begin in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands on July 1, and other parts of Puget Sound on July 16.
Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas will contribute some of his tasty cooking advice and recipes for the Reel Time Fishing NW blog in our Catch of the Week each Wednesday through October. Catch of the Day will also include recipes from other local chefs, tackle shop owners and fish-market owners.
Douglas is owner of Lola, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, Dahlia Bakery, Etta’s, Serious Pie Downtown, Seatown, Brave Horse Tavern, Cuoco, Serious Biscuit and Serious Pie Westlake. Another new Douglas restaurant, Tanaka San will open in June at the Via6 Apartment Complex in downtown Seattle.
Here is Douglas’ advice on how to grill chinook salmon, and wow your guests at the next meal:
Chinook or king salmon is one of the first type available wild, with its season beginning in May. The flesh of king salmon, which varies in color from white to pink to red, has a high fat content, making it perfect for grilling.
I have long been a fan of firing up the grill for king salmon. One of the original items on the Dahlia Lounge menu was grilled king salmon slathered with hoisin barbecue sauce and served with lup chong fried rice. The buttery, rich king salmon stood up well to that bold, sweet, and spicy sauce of hoisin, rice wine vinegar, Chinese black beans, garlic, and ginger.
Around the time I opened my second restaurant, Etta’s, I had just finished judging at the Jack Daniels World Invitational BBQ Championship in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Back home in Seattle, my goal was to recreate the sweet and smoky taste of that BBQ using our local wild king salmon instead of pig. Those Southern pit masters first massaged their pork with spice rub before smoking it, so I came up with my own spice rub for salmon (which later launched the Rub with Love product line). The resulting lush, spicy, sweet, and smoky “Etta’s Rub with Love Salmon,” is still on Etta’s menu to this day.
Another way I like to barbecue king salmon is as a whole fish stuffed, literally to the gills, with sweet onions, sliced lemons, and summer sage. The fish is tied with kitchen twine and slow roasted on a covered grill just until an instant-read meat thermometer that’s inserted into the thickest part of the fish reads 130°F. A barbecued whole salmon is a Seattle tradition for the 4th of July, one of my favorite holidays and only a few weeks away.
Who says you can’t drink red wine with fish? The full bodied flavor of a Washington Merlot or an Oregon Pinot Noir will match beautifully to the richness of your charcoal-grilled king salmon, so go ahead and break the rules.
(Photo by Greg Gilbert, Seattle Times staff photographer)