Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I was spoiled. I was hand-fed Dungeness crab as a baby and got to pick my own sun-ripened blackberries near our favorite swimming lake each weekend. It seemed as if nature was there just for me to eat.
I remember one particular instance of tasting the most tantalizing beach grilled, wild caught salmon. This meal will forever live in infamy. See the thing is when you love food it is not just the bites you take; it is the entire sensory experience of eating. That’s why so much of food is linked to sense memory. We all have these meals in us that resonate and bring us back to a specific moment with our closest friends or family where life seemed better. Like in the movie Ratatouille where the harsh critic is transported back to his youth in the French countryside and his expression changes from a grimace to a radiation of joy. Food has the power to move us well beyond the confines we adhere to in our day to day.
So, back to that beach off the cooler side of the Pacific. It wasn’t a perfectly cloudless day- it was the Pacific Northwest. It was overcast and a bit blustery and us kids had been flying kites on the cliffs and racing about all day. Lucky for us, my father had caught a magnificent chinook salmon and was grilling it on one of the charcoal grills dotting the beach. His adornments were simple: fresh lemon and dill along with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. I swear in over ten years I have never tasted a salmon as delicious or as perfectly cooked. So here is to the joy of simplicity.
The Perfect Beach Grilled Salmon
1 whole side of wild sockeye salmon (deboned but with skin)– King, Coho, and Chinook are also quite lovely
2 tablespoons of butter
Fresh dill sprig
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
1. Heat up grill to a medium heat. To increase flavor, you can add in aromatic wood like cedar or alder to coals.
2. Rub Salmon with butter then place skin down on the grill with the thickest side towards the inside of the grill. This will allow for even cooking.
3. Cook entirely on the skin side.
4. Place the dill sprig across the salmon and cook until the flesh turns opaque (it will be a delicate pink color with a slight bit of translucence in the center). The perfect moment to remove is just as the flesh starts to flake.
5. Once you remove the salmon squeeze fresh lemon juice over top and season with salt and pepper.
The perfect sides are grilled asparagus, an herbed cous cous salad, a crusty loaf of french bread and assorted cheeses, and a big bold red wine. Or you can go for a crisp rueda if you feel strongly that fish must be served with white wine. I personally don’t.
Then sit back with friends and family and dig in!
(Pictured above: Aurora and her fly fishing Uncle Bill– infamous for his skills in catching magnificent salmon)