How to Grill A Whole Salmon Fillet
As members of our classes and our circle of friends & family know, we love to grill long whole salmon fillets when we have a group to the house for dinner; over the years we have likely prepared hundreds! Here's Dr. Herscu's tried & true recipe, with lots of room for improvisation; pretty much always a crowd pleaser.
Choose a beautiful fillet from your local fishmonger or grocer. We have grilled fresh wild caught, farm raised, and previously frozen fillets. Those with a more refined palate might be able to taste the difference, but we never can. We do prefer wild caught, for health reasons, but it is not always available where we live. Salmon is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, is rich in various types of nutrients, high in protein while being lower in calories. We try to include in our diet at least once or twice a week.
If you are buying fresh, try to buy the day you are going to prepare. Also, check with your grocer which day is best. They likely receive shipment on one or two days of the week, which is when the fish will be freshest. When you are ready to begin, let cool water rinse over your fish, both sides, pat dry. Lay the fillet out gently on a large platter, let it air out and rest a moment. Pour olive oil, perhaps an eighth of a cup, over your fish & rub in gently. Drizzle your favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing over the fish and massage in with the olive oil. Others might prefer to make a marinade in a glass or jar & then pour over the fish, but we've always just applied directly to the fish. We often use Colavita Balsamic Glace, Raspberry for our vinegar, but if you are in a bit of hurry, a delicious simple alternative is to use most any premade salad dressing or one you've made & have on hand. Then smash & mince 4-5 cloves of garlic and rub those little nubbins into the surface of the fish. Sprinkle with a tiny amount of salt. Let sit for an hour or so or if you are organized & thinking ahead, prepare in the morning and let the fish absorb that marinade all day long.
Oil the grill well, we prefer an organic spray olive oil to coat the grill surface. Turn on your grill or get your charcoal heating. You want the grill surface very hot before you begin. Pick up your slippery fillet-be careful, more than one has been known to slide right through the fingers, as if trying to swim back home! With care and intention place softly onto the grill surface; cook on high heat for the first few minutes then lower the heat. It's done when the meatiest part of the fillet is cooked through, i.e., no longer looks gelatinous. Different people like their fish cooked to different degrees, so try to know your audience as well as your grill. There is no need to flip the fish; it will cook right through. You might want to purchase a very wide metal spatula, which will make elevating your fish from the grill more manageable. Having a friend hold a long fish platter right near the edge of the grill also helps. Many hands make light work!
Aim to start cooking once people arrive, not hours before. It really is lovely served hot right off the grill if possible. That said, if you need to attend to host or hostess duties and do not want to be behind the grill as people arrive to your gathering, prepare ahead of time and plan to serve chilled.
We usually serve on a bed of springy kale or large leafed collards, and add some color for garnish with berries or tomatoes, beets or carrots, season depending. We might sprinkle some chopped fresh dill across the top or grilled sliced lemons. Leftovers work cold on a bed of greens for lunch and will last for several days if well covered in the fridge. Bon appétit!