Two years ago, my sister and brother-in-law relocated their family to Olympia, Washington. There were several reasons for the move, but I am pretty sure a main motivator for my sister was salmon fishing. She is a fishing fanatic, and the bigger the potential size of the fish, the longer we sit in the boat. She is one of those people that will wait for hours for a bite, whether there is action happening on the other end of the line or not. I can’t count how many times I have been out with her, starting at the first peak of light over the horizon and staying until late into the day, and nothing has been happening. I give up. I will reach the point where I won’t even bait my pole anymore and start reading because it has been hours and hours with no action. And just when I think, “Finally! She is defeated and we are leaving!” there will be that inevitable tug, which most of the time I think she imagined it, and we have to start all over again. That “tug” is like the refresh button. The hours we have sat there are irrelevant because “Now! Now, we are getting somewhere and things are starting to happen!”
Since her move to the Pacific Northwest, my sister has landed exactly zero salmon. This is not from a lack of trying, trust me on that one. She has spent hours on the Puget Sound, pole in the water, patiently waiting for a bite. She has tried hundreds of locations, stopped at dozens of fishing shops and talked with people about how they go about salmon fishing in the area, experimented with multiple bait and lure set-ups. She has tried early morning, mid-day lunch time, evening, even night time fishing. She has done it all, and had zero success. Until this weekend!!!
This weekend, her family landed their very first king salmon, and the excitement was palpable. I am pretty sure she called me half a dozen times to remind me that, yes indeed, she had caught a king salmon in the Puget Sound. It wasn’t a huge fish, in fact it was only a few inches over the legal limit-size, but it was a fish! And she had caught it! And I think she wanted me to hum the Rocky theme song or something for her over the phone to acknowledge her accomplishment, but I draw the line there!
Anyway, in honor of my sister’s first official king salmon caught in the Pacific Northwest, I am going to share a recipe for pecan crusted salmon.
Salmon is one of my favorite eating fish. It has a very meaty, and filling texture but is also flaky. Salmon is an oily fish, which adds to the mild but buttery flavor of the meat. A very diverse fish, salmon is great in sushi, grilled, baked, and smoked.
For this recipe, I left the skin on the salmon since I was grilling it. If that bothers you, the skin is easy to remove and you can bake this instead of grilling it. I wouldn’t recommend trying to grill it without the skin though, as I am pretty sure the entire thing will just fall apart and you’ll lose all your fishy goodness to the coals.
Preheat your grill, whether charcoal or gas, to a medium heat. It might also be useful to lightly oil the grate, which will help prevent sticking.
While the grill is preheating, prepare the salmon filet by dousing it in Worcestershire sauce, about a tablespoon will cover a pound of fish. Massage the sauce into the fish a bit, and then season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
When thinking about how much fish to prepare, I like to estimate a half pound, or eight ounces, per person. At our house, some people can eat a lot of salmon, and others not so much. The eight ounces per person usually balances out just right and everyone is satisfied by the meal’s end.
For the salmon topping, preheat the oven broiler to high. Place a cup of pecans in an oven-friendly dish and let broil for five minutes. Keep an eye on pecans, as sometimes they will cook a little quicker than you intended and you end up with burnt pecans. I usually check mine after two minutes and see how things are looking. You will know they are ready when you open the oven door and are essentially overwhelmed by the nutty aromas filling the oven. It smells amazing! Let the pecans cool.
In a food processor, add the cooled pecans, a quarter cup of unsalted butter, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Grind it all up until a buttery paste is formed. This recipe makes a decent amount of the topping, it will easily coat a pound and a half of salmon. If you like a bit thinner topping, you could stretch it to do two pounds. Top the salmon, coating evenly, with the pecan topping.
Well, all that is left to do is grill the salmon! Place the salmon filet skin-side down directly over the heat. Close the grill lid and allow to cook for seven minutes. I do a check at seven minutes to make sure the salmon is cooking properly, that my grill isn’t on fire, that my fish hasn’t fallen into the coals, you know, all the bad things that could happen. I check at seven minutes just to make sure they haven’t happened. Anyway, depending on the thickness of the salmon, it takes about 12 minutes per inch of salmon to cook. The piece I used for this meal was about an inch and a half thick, so it took about 18 minutes to fully cook. You can tell the salmon is ready because it will flake easily off the skin with a fork, and it should also start to release some of the meat’s fats, which kind of look like mayonnaise (yeah, sorry, that sounds gross but it really is the best description).
Now all that is left to do is dig in! The pecan and butter topping pair perfectly with the oily, salmon. The Italian seasoning adds a twist that is somewhat unexpected, as it almost clashes with the pecans and fish flavor, but then somehow at the same time compliments the flavors. This is a very simple, fast, and delicious recipe that really lets the salmon shine! Hope you enjoy it!