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Have you tried a Wild West Salmon marinade? Here's how to do it

Vin Greco tells us how to cook it (and what wines to try with it) in this edition of Let's Eat
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Salmon plays a prominent part of our diet, often appearing ‘on the menu’ several times a month.

A favourite recipe perfect for the summer barbecue is a version of Wild West Salmon. We originally came upon this recipe decades ago in a little “Best of Bridge” cookbook. If you check the Internet, though, you will find it in various sources.

As with many recipes, there is always ‘tweaking’ to adjust things to your personal tastes; that is the case with our approach here.

As for the salmon, we generally like to use a piece that has some fat visible, as it is easier to keep the fish from over-cooking, giving us instead a lovely, moist result.

The amount of marinade below has been considered sufficient for anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds of salmon. If you have a whole fish, first remove the head, tail, and fins. Then, you want to be able to lay the fish flat. Our approach is to use a fillet of salmon, always with the skin still on.

Wild West Salmon

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. of brown sugar, or as we prefer, 1 tbsp. of maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of rye whiskey, or bourbon
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Combine the marinade ingredients, mixing well, and pour over salmon fillet (skin side up!) in a shallow casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate overnight in the fridge.

When ready to cook, place a piece of aluminum foil on the barbecue, and preheat the grill. I like to turn up the edges of the foil so that liquids don’t spill out on to the grill, for easier clean-up afterwards.

Place the fillet(s) skin side down on the foil, and reduce heat to medium — if the barbecue is uneven, place the thicker part of the salmon over the hotter area of the grill and the thinner part over the cooler area, so that the fish cooks evenly. Barbecue until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily. You should be able to see an opaque white protein liquid beginning to form on the surface. 

While cooking, you can continue to baste with the remaining marinade, if you wish. Cooking should take 20 to 30 minutes, but don’t over-cook! If you need to cut into the fillet with a knife to be certain of doneness, go ahead!

To remove from the grill, you can slide a spatula carefully between the fish and the skin, then lift the salmon to a platter. The skin will remain stuck to the foil, and the cleanup is easy.

This is a great dish to serve with rice, or even with a pesto pasta.

As for wines, this is the ideal time to bring out a bright but harmonious red, particularly a good Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

Of the wines currently available, I would consider either the Georges DuBoeuf Brouilly, $19.10, or the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, currently $15.95, in Vintages. Both should be lively and fruity.

With Pinot Noir, some reliable examples include the Cigar Box Pinot Noir, $13, from Chile, or the Angels Gate Pinot Noir, $18.95 and the Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Pinot Noir, $25.95, from Niagara. The Cigar Box is a great value, but as the wines go up in price, you’ll find more nuance in the glass. Angels Gate has always, in my estimation, captured the essence of the grape, regardless the varietal. The Jackson-Triggs is wonderfully smooth with the softest tannic burr and good red cherry/cranberry fruit that invites sip after sip. The first two can be found at the LCBO, with the JT available at Wine Rack stores.

This would also be a great dish to serve with a fuller-bodied rosé, such as the Masi Rosa dei Masi which I mentioned last column. For $16.95, you can expect great texture, tart cherry fruit, and elegant extended flavours. A percentage of partially dried fruit no doubt contributes to the complexity.

If you want to try a white, I think a full-bodied Chardonnay would be good. The Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2018, $20.95, was aged on its lees in French oak for a year. It has fine structure and depth, with lingering flavours and a character that makes it a perfect food wine, as opposed to being simply a ‘sipper’.

A sparkling wine like the Jackson Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve 2016, $29.95, could also be perfect. It has a wonderful density of flavours with biscuit and toast notes and yet is lifted crisply by the effervescence. Both of these wines can be found at the Wine Rack stores.

From the July 11 Vintages Release, I would love to pair as well the El Enemigo Chardonnay from Argentina, $23.95 with the Wild West Salmon. Writer James Suckling describes it as “a tight and beautiful white with a dense palate of beautiful, ripe lemons and apples. Layered and refined with phenolic tension. Complex yeast and hints of oak and flor. Full body. Great length.”

P.S. “Flor” refers to a film of yeast which can form on wine during fermentation. It can give a wine, as Wikipedia puts it, a “distinctive fresh taste, with residual flavors of fresh bread.”

On the same release you could also go for the Hess Select Monterey County Chardonnay 2018, $19.95. Vintages suggests that “this is always a complex, well-made wine that manages to hold on to a delicate character without sacrificing breadth or depth. There's apple, melon, vanilla, spice, and an oaky toast that emerges deftly on the close.”