A member recently asked me “Why don’t you suggest more salmon recipes with your pinot noirs? That’s the classic pairing!” Yeah but…as with any rule of thumb, blind application can be disastrous. Salmon is an oily fish, which is why it’s so good for us. But that oil fights with big pinots, leaving an almost tin-like aftertaste that is offensively unpleasant. What to do? Two things – first, grill the salmon, the caramelization reduces this interaction. Second, select a wine that leans towards the austere side – Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon, Sonoma Coast, cooler years in Russian River or Carneros. Then you’ll have a perfect pairing! (other wine considerations, Riesling, Albarino, Vermentino, or bigger dry or off-dry Rosés)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1+ lb Salmon fillet(s)
Salt and pepper to taste
5 Slices bacon cut into 1” squares
1 Cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
3 Tbsp Chinese oyster sauce
½ Cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped parsley or chervil
Prepare your grill for direct heat (coals directly underneath the fish). Season the salmon with olive oil, salt and pepper and return to refrigerator until ready to grill (it’s almost always best to grill fish cold, but meat at room temperature).
In a bowl, combine the oyster sauce and the chicken broth. Set aside. Heat a heavy sauté pan over medium high heat for two or three minutes, then add the bacon. When crispy but not too dark, place bacon in a mesh strainer to drain the fat, and reserve 1-2 Tbsp of the fat in the pan.
To the pan add the shiitake mushrooms and sauté until golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the parsley. After 1-2 minutes add the minced garlic and cook another 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the oyster sauce/chicken broth mixture and reduce over medium-high heat for several minutes. Keep warm.
Mop your hot charcoal grill with oil and then quickly put the salmon on the grill – if you have skin on your salmon fillets, place the non-skin side down first, cooking for a long minute before flipping to the skin-side down. Grill the salmon until done to your liking – I like to use a fairly high heat so the skin gets crispy and the center is still pink and moist. Note, salmon often takes longer to cook than is often thought.
Meanwhile, back on your stove top – crumble the bacon into the sauce and combine. Top each salmon fillet with sauce and garnish with chopped parsley or chervil.
Suggested Pairings – Wild rice pilaf and grilled spring peas tossed with extra virgin olive oil and good sea salt. Pure heaven!