Fire up the grill

We sprang forward last month and Easter is already behind us. That means it is time to brush off the leaves and cobwebs and fire up the grill.

As much as I love bar-b-que pork ribs and brisket, I am really looking forward to grilling fish. There is something about fish on the grill. The slight char and smokiness plays off the inherent oiliness of fish. One of my favorite fish to grill is salmon. Because of its fatty nature, salmon lends itself to the dry heat nature of grilling.
In the Pacific Northwest where salmon is king, they have a unique cooking method that works equally well on a grill or in the oven. Cedar planked fish has long been popular with Native Americans from coast to coast wherever cedar trees grew. This cooking method capitalizes on the unique scent of cedar. Cedar planks are available in gourmet food stores, but save yourself some money and visit that bastion of gourmet ingenuity – the lumberyard. Make sure you get untreated wood. I like ½” or ¾” thick boards so you can get multiple uses out of one piece. Have the board cut into 8”-10” pieces for individual fillets or make it as long as your grill or even allow for sides of salmon. Make sure you soak the plank overnight. Weigh the board down so it stays submerged.

Marinate your salmon fillets for only 20-30 minutes. Fish will absorb the marinade quickly and over-marinating can make the fish mushy. Place the fish on the planks and roast according to the recipe that follows. If using the grill, make sure it stays covered and have a spray bottle of water on hand to wet the board if necessary. Hint: Shooting flames is an indication that the board needs more moisture. The fish is excellent as is or can be served with morel (edible wild mushroom) cream sauce.

Another treat to enjoy are sourdough pancakes. Sourdough was the lifeblood of our pioneer ancestors. Sourdough starter allowed pioneers to have breads or pancakes on their journey west.  Some restaurants and bakeries in the west have starters that have been kept alive for over 150 years.  Sourdough originally was made by using wild yeast before commercially cultivated yeast was available. If you feed your starter weekly or repay (put some mix back into your starter jar after each use.) you can keep it alive indefinitely.  Sourdough pancakes aren’t as light and fluffy as their buttermilk counterparts, but their distinct flavor and texture are a culinary treat from a by-gone era.  The same starter can be used for breads and rolls as well. Sourdough is still popular in the west today. The starter, once fermented at room temperature, takes about 3-4 days and can be kept in the refrigerator indefinitely – as long as you feed it once a week (it is a living breathing organism.)  Enjoy these treats from the left coast as well as Pacific Oyster Stew and Berry Nectarine tart. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Cedar Planked Salmon with Morel Cream Sauce and Braised Lentils

  • 1 Cedar plank, soaked
  • 1 Side salmon, skin removed
  • 3 Shallots, minced
  • 4 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme

Soak cedar plank for 1 hour. Mix marinade. Rub over salmon. Let sit one-half hour. Place salmon on plank. Roast at 400° for 20 minutes. Brown under broiler. Serve with lentils and morel cream.

Morel Cream Sauce

  • 2 Shallots minced
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Cup Madeira
  • 2 Cups morels
  • 2 Tablespoons parsley
  • 1 Teaspoon thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Cups cream

Melt butter. Sweat garlic and shallots. Add morels. Sauté over high heat. Deglaze with Madeira. Reduce by half. Add cream. Reduce until thickened. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and thyme.

Braised Lentils

  • 2 Cups cooked lentils
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Teaspoon curry
  • 1 Cup peeled crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Cups stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Teaspoons minced ginger

Sauté onions, ginger and garlic. Add lentils and curry. Stir well. Add tomatoes and stock. Season. Simmer until thickened. Finish with chopped parsley and green onions.

Pacific Oyster Stew

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 Strips thick slab bacon diced
  • 4 Stalks celery finely diced
  • ½ onion finely diced
  • ½ Red pepper finely diced
  • Splash Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash Tabasco
  • 1 Pint oyster in liquor
  • 1 Cup sherry
  • 3 Cups cream
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Kosher salt

In saucepan brown bacon. Remove. Add butter, celery, peppers and onion into bacon fat. Sauté until soft. Add bacon, oysters, sherry and cream. Simmer until oysters curl. Season. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.

Sourdough Pancakes Alaska Style

Basic Sourdough Starter

  • 2 Cups flour
  • 2 Cups warm water
  • ¼ Ounces active dry yeast

Add yeast to warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. Add flour. Cover loosely. Let sit room temperature three days and feed.

Repaying the starter: If you use 1 cup of starter, add back ½ cup water, ½ cup flour mixed.

Feeding the starter: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup water once a week.

Pancake Recipe

  • 1 Cup starter
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1 Cup water

Mix well. Cover loosely. Store overnight in warm place. In the morning stir mixture. Remove 1 cup and repay starter. To remaining mixture add:

  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • ½ Teaspoon baking soda

Pour ¼ cup batter onto hot oiled griddle. Cook until brown around edges. Flip. Cook until golden brown.

Huckleberry Nectarine Pie

Pie crust

  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ Cup canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoon cold milk
  • 2 Tablespoon ice water

In medium bowl sift together dry ingredients. Stir in oil and mix with fork to the size of peas. Stir in milk and mix until dough starts to form. Add enough water to form smooth ball. Flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°.

Berry Filling

  • 2 Cups mixed berries – huckle, blue, black
  • 4 Nectarines, pitted and sliced
  • ⅓ Cup sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Mix berries, sugar and zest. Let sit 5 minutes. Add cornstarch. Mix well on lightly floured surface. Roll dough into 10” circle. Transfer to cookie sheet. Spread filling into center leaving a 2” inch border. Fold edges over filling overlapping dough into folds. Brush cream onto dough border and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 35 minutes. Cool for ten minutes. Serve warm.