May 1, 2008
Wild King Salmon with Macerated Cherries and Smoked Almond Beurre Noisette
Varietal: Pinot Noir
This recipe from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining was created by Kevin Davis, chef/owner of Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. It showcases two of the Northwest’s iconic ingredients: fresh, wild salmon and dried cherries and would be perfect to try with the first run of Northwest salmon from the Columbia River. Pair it with another Northwest icon—Oregon Pinot Noir—which mirrors the lush berry, earthy, and smoky flavors in the dish. Some of my favorite Oregon Pinot Noir producers include reasonably priced versions such as Willamette Valley Vineyard’s amazing Whole Cluster Fermented Pinot Noir (which winery founder Jim Bernau characterizes as “Pinot Noir candy”) or luxury-priced Pinots from Domaine Serene and Archery Summit.
1 cup dried cherries (Chukar brand preferred)
1 cup port or Madeira
Four 8-ounce Yukon River King salmon or other wild salmon fillets (center cuts preferred)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup smoked almonds, lightly crushed (Blue Diamond brand preferred)
1. To prepare the Macerated Cherries, place the dried cherries in a heatproof nonreactive bowl. Bring the port to a boil and pour over the cherries. Cover with plastic wrap and steep for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
2. Prepare a medium-low fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the salmon with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the fillets on the grill skin side down away from direct heat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turn the fish, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more (for medium rare) or to the desired doneness.
3. While the fish is grilling, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter turns brown and gives off a nutty aroma. This is called beurre noisette in French, and translates as “brown butter.”
4. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the chopped rosemary, orange zest, almonds, and Macerated Cherries (drained and patted dry) in that order, pausing between each addition and stirring gently to allow each ingredient to render it essence into the butter. Be careful when adding the first two ingredients, as the butter may sizzle and pop. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Place the salmon fillets on 4 dinner plates, top with the brown butter, and serve immediately.
Cook’s Hint: Wild king or Chinook salmon has a very high fat content and will tend to flame up if cooked too fast. It’s always a good idea to have a water bottle handy, just in case. Don’t leave the grill unattended at any time throughout the cooking process. Also, Chef Kevin has an easy way to prevent overcooking your fish. Simply turn the grill off when the fish is slightly underdone; this allows the carryover heat to finish cooking the fish.
Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.