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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Friday, June 4, 2004


Marrying food and fire

Express Staff Writer

Imagine this: You’re sitting on a riverside beach, watching the whitewater rush by. Curious birds are darting overhead. You take in a deep breath of the fresh, pine-scented air and start to smell traces of burning wood. A group gathers around the fire, scents of grilled fish take over the camp, and after what seems like the blink of an eye, someone yells, "Dinner’s on!"

Whether you’re out in the Idaho wilderness or in your own backyard, there’s something about food cooked over a fire that just tastes special. And, as the longest days of the year start to set in, many cooks look forward to trading hours in the kitchen for a few minutes over the grill.

The art of grilling has come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days when most of us equated a barbecue celebration with dry, charred ribs casually slathered in a sweet, peppery sauce.

Instead, we have learned that by employing a little creativity it is rather simple to produce savory grilled fare with delicate nuances of herbs, spices, sweetness and smoke.

The process of cooking delectable grilled meats, fish and vegetables often starts in the kitchen. Most foods require some preparation before they go over a fire or hot coals.

Chicken, which can easily dry out on the grill, is best when soaked in a marinade and basted while over the flames. Searing chicken skin side down before cooking helps lock in the meat’s juices.

Steaks are typically easier to grill. Those that are marbled with fat can be simply brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and put right onto the grates. Leaner cuts, such as London broil or flank steak, benefit more from marinades.

Grilled fish and shellfish can be perfect for lighter meals on warm summer evenings. Whole fish, filets or steaks can all be cooked successfully over a fire, but as with grilling meats one must ensure the heat is not excessive. Fish cooks very fast on the grill and dries out quickly.

Steaks cut from fish with sturdy flesh—such as tuna or salmon—work especially well on the grill. Smaller fish, such as trout or red snapper, are superb grilled whole.

Marinades are included in just about all grilled-fish recipes and are considered a must for fish kabobs, which lose their moisture more readily.

In Idaho, the abundance of fresh, quality salmon makes it an obvious choice for any summer barbecue.

Salmon steaks or large filets are both suitable for cooking on the grill. For those who choose to grill filets, use of a wire fish basket—which encloses a filet or whole fish—can make turning the fish much easier.

In any case, it is wise to only turn fish once on the grill.

Grilled salmon—whether it be king, sockeye or silver—provides a healthy, hearty meal that is somehow meant to be eaten outside at sunset. It marries well with grilled eggplant and a rich, buttery chardonnay.


Barbecued salmon "facile"

2 large garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ cup soy sauce
1 cup dry sherry
1 salmon filet, approx. 1.5 lbs.

At least one hour ahead:

In a food processor, make a paste of the garlic, mustard and soy sauce. Or, mince the garlic and mix it in a bowl with the mustard and soy sauce.

Slowly whisk in the sherry until the mixture has a smooth consistency.

Place the salmon in an approximately 9" by 12" glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over the fish filet. Marinate the fish for at least one hour and up to 12 hours, turning it over at least once.

At cooking time:

Prepare the fire. Oil the grill well. Grill the salmon skin side up for 4 to 6 minutes and then turn the filet over and continue to grill until the flesh flakes easily.(Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish and the hotness of the fire.)

Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

Gregory Foley is a staff writer for the Idaho Mountain Express. He is a former restaurant sous-chef and a former France-based travel guide. His first novel, The Clarity of Light, was released in March.


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