Just like in pairing food and wine, sometimes you strike on a food-and-food combination that’s just perfect. We think we’ve found one in salmon and sweet potatoes (and the trifecta of adding fresh broccoli). It’s not just that each element is great in its own right, it’s that they play off of each other so well. The earthy sweetness of the potato compliments the distinct flavor of the salmon. Both of those creamier textures contrasts well with the firmness of the broccoli. The final element that brings is all together is a great Pinot Noir, which echoes an element of each of the foods.
12oz sockeye salmon filet
3 oz bourbon
3 oz maple syrup
1 small lime
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 large garnet sweet potato
1 broccoli crown
About 75 minutes before I wanted to cook the fish, I put the sweet potato, wrapped in foil, in a 400F oven. It was nice and thick, so I knew it’d take the full 75 to cook.
After that was in, I used a small pair of kitchen pliers to remove the bones from the salmon filet, pulling straight up instead of tearing laterally, to keep from having a slice down the filet. Keeping the skin on, I put the fish and all the ingredients except for the lime into a Zip-Loc bag, mixing them together extremely well by closing the bag and rolling it round. I don’t like adding the acid to fish for more than half an hour, because it starts to cook it.
I lit the grill, and since we had a few minutes, we took the time to open a bottle of 2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, idly chat and listen to some music. Oregon Pinot might be the right call if you’re just lightly seasoning the salmon, but with the addition of the sweetness of the bourbon and syrup, I like a bolder, more structured, and residually sweet California Pinot. And you never go wrong with Kosta Browne.
At T-minus 30, I cut the lime and squeezed the juice into the bag with the fish and other ingredients, tossing the cut halves into the bag as well, and giving it all another good shake/mix.
Cooking time is less than seven minutes on a hot grill (around 500F). When I carried the fish outside, Gretchyn put the broccoli in the steamer. I laid the fish, skin side down, on the hot grill and kept an eye on it the entire time, since the sugars in the glaze can catch fire pretty easily, and I don’t want burned fish. The thick skin on the fish protected it from the heat. At about the five minute point, I flipped it over to caramelize the top. I pulled it off skin side up, then used a butter knife to pull of the skin (which came off in a single, crispy piece), then flipped it back upright to put onto the plate. The potato was large enough to split, as was the broccoli (which got a little bit of melted salted butter drizzled over it), and there was a perfect meal.
This is the first time that I haven’t put any olive oil into the mixture with the salmon, and I was really happy with the results. It helped the other liquid ingredients integrate better into the fish, and it wasn’t really necessary to keep the fish from sticking to the grill, since the skin did that job. I also normally use honey as the sweet element, and I have to say that I’m going to further experiment with the darker flavor of the maple syrup.
The entire cost of this extremely healthy meal (not counting the wine) was about $15. The salmon was on sale at $12.99/lb (from $19.99), the potato just over a dollar and the broccoli two. I challenge the idea that you can’t eat well inexpensively.