I warned you that there would be a lot of salmon talk on here for a while. Hey, I’m in the Pacific Northwest and from late July through late September salmon rules the roost here.
Don’t worry, once this is over I’m going to be talking about plenty of other great seafood. In fact we have a tuna fish trip already booked for next month. For now though, I’m happily awash in salmon & dungeness crab.
Even though king salmon season got closed on us early, well … you know what they say, when one door closes another one opens.
Other door, thy name is coho. And while the kings were late (too late) arriving in our area, the ocean migratory coho salmon have shown up early, and we’ve been into them.
Coho, or “silver” salmon don’t get as large as the kings do, but their meat is sweeter, firmer and they are considered by many to be a better eating fish. No arguments from me on that one.
I’ve mentioned many times that I’m always learning more and this sudden shift of salmon seasons in the same waterways have given me opportunity to brush up on targeting one type specifically.
You may recall that in the couple weeks before the king season opened, we hooked and released a good number of the big boys when we were trying to catch the Puget Sound resident coho. Well, in the few days recently that we’ve been coho fishing, we’ve boated 9 silvers and only hooked one king. Still, it broke my heart a little to send that beautiful fish swimming away, but I’m a good boy and do my part to keep the fisheries healthy.
We’re are still anticipating the arrival of the larger cohos that should be showing up soon.
So yeah, I’ve been fishing in deeper water, since the silvers don’t follow structure like kings do. I’ve been trolling a little faster and closer to the surface. Also, while kings prefer to hit lures that are traveling in the same direction as the tide flow, silvers don’t seem to care as much if we are trolling with the current or against it.
Alright, that’s all the detail I’m going into about techniques of catching coho right now, because I’m hungry and I’m ready to fire up the grill.
Grilling fish can be tricky. Unless you have a pretty nice and well broken-in grill, the fish often wants to stick to the grate. As you can see in the photos below, the grill I have has a grid style grate which while OK for steaks, kind of sucks for fish. Once I get around to getting myself a nicer grill, I’m going to invest in a Man Grate. They are heavy cast iron grill grates and once you get them seasoned they rock.
Of course you can avoid the sticking & breaking up problems of fish on a BBQ grill by using a grill basket. I’m a big fan of using these, so much so in fact that I think I’ll save the topic of these for a post of their own.
Some people, in fact some good friends of mine, make the “grilling” of fish much simpler by wrapping it in a foil pouch. This, I’m not a fan of.
Cooking fish wrapped in a pouch, sealed with it’s seasonings is a fine cooking method. In fact I’ll likely do a piece on “poisson en papillote” in the off season. However, sealing the fish away from the smoke and char and the fragrance of it’s own oils dripping onto the coals below it, isn’t grilling. In fact it’s defeating the whole purpose of grilling. If you are going to wrap it in foil you might as well just put it in the oven.
So keep the fish out of the foil. Let that grill smoke and flavor get all up in that fishes … grill. 😉
To cut down on sticking, after you season the fish, give it a light coating of oil. Brush the grill clean and give a light coating of oil as well. Don’t drop the fish on the grill, gently lower it into place, using a pair of tongs if needed. Give it enough time to cook on one side before carefully loosening it from the grates with a spatula. It’s best if you can flip the fish just once. The less you move the fish around, the less it is likely to break apart.
That’s basically it. Like learning anything else, the secret is don’t get frustrated, let yourself make mistakes (they’ll still be delicious) and keep practicing.
Now let’s eat. It’s stone fruit season right now and the sweetness of ripe peaches, the smokiness from the grill, the mild heat of fresh chilies and the richness of the salmon all combine in this dish to make a summertime symphony of deliciousness.
Coho Salmon with Grilled Peach Salsa
2 Ripe Peaches, peeled, split and seeded
2 anaheim peppers, stemmed & seeded
1 jalapeno, stemmed & seeded
1 medium onion, peeled & sliced thickly
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
juice of ½ lime
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
kosher salt & pepper: to taste
Toss the peaches peppers & onion in 1 ½ Tbs of olive oil and a pinch of salt & pepper.
Grill the items until they are lightly charred on the outside.
Remove the peaches & veggies from the grill, and place them in a container that will catch any juices that continue seep from them. You’re going to want to mix that into the salsa as well.
Dice the peaches & veggies. I suggest taking extra care to dice the jalapeno small & evenly.
Combine the diced grilled items with the remaining oil, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. Set aside.
Season cut salmon filets with salt & pepper and a light coating of olive oil and grill as described above, to your desired level of doneness. As in the past, I like a nice medium cook on fresh salmon.
Serve the salmon topped with a generous portion of the salsa.