Story last updated at 7/10/2012 - 1:19 pm
One of the great American dreams is to catch a wild Alaskan king salmon. My husband is a sport fishing charter captain and he helps make many dreams come true. All summer Grant is out trolling Juneau's coastlines trying to snag that big fish for his guests. It's a lot of work, sometimes frustrating, but always fun. Being able to help someone achieve a goal or dream is a reward in itself. Being able to yell "Fish on!" for someone who is visiting from the Lower 48, or even another country, is quite thrilling.
My dream is to cook a whole salmon on the grill. I have seen this done on television and have heard many chefs talk about it, but I have yet to experience the thrill of a 20-pound fish cooking on my backyard barbecue grill. Then the call came - at 5 p.m., on a Wednesday, as I was headed out the door to go home.
Actually it was a text message. "Got a king, 8 for dinner." I must confess that at first I was a little annoyed. I love having people over for dinner, but I prefer to be the one who decides who and when. I'm the one who does all the meal prep, the cooking and the cleaning. We have had large dinner parties the past few nights, so I was a bit on the tired, nearing grumpy side of life. It is also the peak of visitor season and my days are long and hectic. Sometimes, I don't feel like cooking. I want to eat cereal and go to bed.
Then I think: I've waited three years for this call. I have dreamed of cooking a whole fish for decades. How long will it take? How to prepare it? Side dishes? I can figure out something. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity. Nope, not me.
I rise to the occasion and hit the grocery store on my way home. I then hurry into the house to see my treasure. Grant is outside getting the grill cleaned and ready to go, while I'm inside contemplating what to do with my fish. It became quite clear. Stuff it with butter, herbs and lemons, throw it on the grill, grab a glass of wine and enjoy the "thank-goodness-it's-not-raining" weather with friends.
Grant did remove the head and clean the fish for me, so that all I had left was the basic fish. Preparing it was definitely a two-person task. Tate, my neighbor and fellow foodie, became my assistant and helped carry and prep the fish. We liberally salted and peppered the inside and added about 10 tablespoons of butter, covering the length of the fish. We tossed in some herbs and fish and viola' it's Fish On! The Grill.
This week I present a dream come true for me, and hopefully a great experience for you, a whole grilled king salmon. If you are unable to get a whole salmon, this recipe can be used for trout or any other fish. Whole or not, throw your fish on the grill and enjoy the flavors of the sea and outdoors.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
Whole Grilled Salmon
12-20 lb salmon (King or Silver)
1 stick butter, cut into slices
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 lemons, sliced
Fresh cracked pepper
Pre-heat grill to medium high setting, approximately 400 degrees. Wash fish and pat outside dry. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally on inside. Add garlic and thyme; be sure to place well inside to so that it doesn't fall out. Add butter pats and lemons. Tie fish closed with butcher twine so that the herbs and lemons don't fall out.
Place on grill and close lid. Let cook on one side at least 20 - 25 minutes, and then with large spatulas flip. This is when the skin will most likely stick to the grill. Don't fret, its fine. You want the char to be on the flesh. Cook additional 25 - 30 minutes. Depending on thickness of fish, you may need to cook longer. It will be done when the inside is no longer dark prink and translucent.
Serve with fresh lemons and salad. I served English cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Leftover fish can be used to make salmon burgers. The recipe can be found on my website.