Salmon a la Dottie

Grilling dinner is a great alternative to slaving away over a hot stove. With that in mind, I’m going to stay outside and do a little more grilling. I have a recipe for grilled salmon that was given to me by my friend, Dottie.

When the grill is wicked hot, I’ll put a little oil on a rag and using tongs will oil the grill going in an even forward and back direction
— no side motions.

She confided in me that as soon as she read chef before my name, she thought the recipes would be fairly complex or at the least have a huge list of ingredients. She thought it would be a comfort to readers to occasionally use a recipe from a regular home cook so people wouldn’t feel intimidated. Her recipe has only two ingredients, salmon and vinaigrette, so it is simple. I also have to say that no one should ever be intimidated by someone’s title.

As long as the recipe is simple, I thought I would talk a little more about grilling techniques to help you out with some of the more common problems. The first one is more of a mental thing than a technique. People associate grilling with fire and fire with cooking. The problem is we also associate fire with burning.

When the grill is nice and hot with a bright flame licking out of the charcoal, we often think that if you put the food right over the flame it will burn. So, we put it over to the side just a little. The problem is that although this spot may be hot, it is not hot enough to sear the food quickly. We also get anxious because some of the fat or oil drips down creating a flame and again we want to immediately move our food so it won’t burn. When we try to move it, it sticks to the grill. This is especially true with fish and chicken.

First, be sure to have one spot on your grill that is hot and don’t shy away from using it. Once the fish is on the grill, cover the grill to keep the flames down and wait a few minutes. You will get the urge to flip it in about a minute and a half but don’t. Sneak a peek under the cover if you want but fight that urge. Let the natural proteins and sugars in the fish caramelize. The grill marks want to be at least a true golden color and gently check to see if the fish will stick.

If it has only been 2 minutes, don’t flip the fish but turn it 90 degrees to get that fancy diamond pattern. If it starts to stick, leave it a little longer. Often, it will appear dark and almost burnt looking. This is not a bad thing. There has probably only been about 3 minutes gone by and the dark outside is helping keep all those juices inside.

Now flip the fish and finish it on the other side. Normally, I try for three-quarters done on the first side and the last quarter on the bottom side. For skinless fish or if you plan to eat the skin, start with what was the skin side up, while if the skin is on but not to be eaten start skin side down. Remember, the skin will add a little fishier flavor to your end results.

Chefs have different opinions on whether you should oil the fish or the grill. For me there is no question. I have a kind of ritual that works 95 percent of the time. I’ll get my fish seasoned and give it a tiny brushing with oil. When the grill is wicked hot, I’ll put a little oil on a rag and using tongs will oil the grill going in an even forward and back direction — no side motions.

When I place the fish on the grill, I will slide the fish on about a quarter inch with the grill in one direction and a quarter inch back. If I feel it stick I’ll get my grill a little hotter and repeat. If there is no stick, I’ll let it stay without touching it again for at least 2 to 3 minutes.

No matter whether you leave your skin on or off, use the simple tips above. Give this simple recipe a try and enjoy.

Salmon a la Dottie

Salmon filet with the skin on
Your favorite vinaigrette

Place the salmon on the grill skin down and slather on a good amount of your vinaigrette. Be careful of flames, but since you are not eating the skin anyway, if it burns a little it isn’t too big a deal. Once the salmon starts turning a little opaque or you see little white splotches of fat, turn it over to quickly finish cooking. Remove the skin and if you like, brush on a tiny bit more dressing.