A weekend afternoon stretching out before us, we decide the fire pit needs some attention. We head to the grocery store and don’t even have to think: wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fingerling potatoes, walnut halves and dried apricots. Lemons. Mayonnaise. Sweet corn! A trio of recipes we know by heart and a night by the fire. Unabashedly covered in DEET, if you’re as delicious to mosquitos as my future pa-in-law and I seem to be.
Let me tell you what we like to do with salmon around here. Cheryl, my future mother-in-law, taught me.
Get a beautiful fillet of salmon so salmon-colored it’s practically fluorescent. Living out here in Portland, we have access to some amazing Alaskan Copper River salmon that makes Jesse’s heart go pitter-patter. In a small bowl, combine a half a cup of mayonnaise (no, I’m not kidding–homemade, organic, Kraft, whatever) with a couple teaspoons of turmeric, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and a teaspoon of ground coriander. A few turns of the grinder for some cracked black pepper, and it’s time to stir. Mix the mayo and spices and taste for salt. Depending upon the mayo, you may want more (not likely, though–and this, coming from a salt fiend!). Slather that lovely mess of flavor on the salmon and top with slices of lemon. You’ve never had a juicier, brighter piece of fish.
I know what you’re thinking: this looks TOTALLY ridiculous and I’ve completely lost my mind and all my culinary cred in your eyes and you can’t beLIEVE I’m telling you to do this. But you must trust me on this one. Actually, trust my future ma-in-law. She’s right. (That’s organic roasted garlic mayo, by the way. No “modified starch” or “natural flavor” in that stuff.)
When we’re grilling on the old classic Weber, we put the salmon on a soaked cedar plank. Over the fire pit, however, we’ve learned that no cedar plank can be sufficiently soaked so as not to burst into flames; instead, we put the fish on a metal grill pan. The cooking time is always different depending upon the thickness of the fish and the heat of the grill. Usually, we just ask Sandra what she thinks.
She’s become our resident Grill Wench. She has an aura of creativity about her, that one; she made some potatoes a few cookouts ago that have become a new staple in my repertoire. I would never have thought of this combination:
-a few pounds of little tiny new or fingerling potatoes
-a cup of dried apricots
-a cup of walnut or pecan halves
-oil to coat
-A COUPLE TEASPOONS OF GROUND CHIPOTLE CHILIS AHHH
-salt & pepper
Seriously. Mix all that together and put it over the fire in a grill basket or packet of foil. Or something. Anything to get it over that fire. The dried apricots and nuts get so toasty and charred and chewy and sweet-spicy, and those potatoes!
Grilled dried apricots with chili powder. Heaven help me. Do they cook unevenly? Of course, and it’s brilliant. I started jumping up and down when I saw her put those ingredients together in the big mixing bowl, but there was no way I could’ve known that those crusty half-burned apricots would be the highlight of my meal.
And Jesse’s perennial favorite is the sweet corn. Soak the corn for 20 minutes in cold water. Pull the husks back and take out the silk. Rub a combo of nothing more than olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper over the kernels. Fold the husks back into place and put them on the grill.
Sandra somehow manages to position everything over the fire pit such that it’s all ready to eat at about the same time; she’s figured out how to make the most of its zones of direct and indirect heat. There may be a science behind it, but so much of what she does happens with intuitive grace.
And then we have dinner.
We like crazy potatoes, and full-flavored salmon, and corn with smoking husks pulled back.
This is what we do here.