One of my main challenges has been salmon. We're both quite fond of the fish, but I dislike the paper-wrapped grill variations -- if I wanted it steamed, I'd steam it. And fish baskets tend not to get great grill marks. I've been trying to work out how to get good salmon with good grill marks and just the right amount of blackening, but it's tricky. Sometimes the skin has overcrisped, sometimes the fish has gotten too flaky and fallen apart on the grill, sometimes it's been overcooked.
Tonight, on a hunch, I did some research, and confirmed my guess: one of the keys seems to be that you *must* pat down and oil the fish slightly before putting on the rub, rather than simply oiling the grill. This is a common procedure, but much more optional for some cuts of meat, so I don't always bother. Raichlen mentions it in his salmon recipes, but casually enough that it hadn't been obvious how crucial it is.
The fish came out absolutely perfect tonight -- just fully cooked, but still so moist as to be almost liquid, with skin that was tasty and crisped but not burned. So key notes for future reference:
- Pat the fish dry and brush lightly with olive oil before applying the rub.
- Sear for 5 minutes skin-side down. Using a spatula and tongs, separate the skin from the grill and flip the fish.
- Sear skin-side up for another 3-4 minutes. Remove carefully from the grill, and let rest covered for a couple of minutes so that the thickest bit finishes cooking.
- Whole Foods' new portion-controlled salmon slices aren't the sort of even thickness you'd ideally want on the grill, but they work just fine anyway, and the variable thickness provides some nice variation within the dish.
- Auntie Arwen's Laughing Coyote blend is reasonably good on salmon, but a bit too salty. Try replicating it with about half the salt. (I am beginning to suspect that the salt needs to be carefully tuned to the meat for best results: lots for steak, less for chicken, less still for fish. Need to research and confirm this.)