Nip and tuck problematic salmon steaks

Posted June 14, 2011, at 6:33 p.m.

While perusing the July issue of Cook’s Country magazine, the recipe for grilled salmon steaks caught my eye. The salmon steaks looked perfecto.

What makes salmon steaks ideal for the grill, the author writes, is that “their bone and thickness make them a far sturdier cut than a fillet.”

I agree, but it’s a cut I don’t grill often because of the bone, the skin and those pesky belly flaps. If you put the steaks directly on the grill, those strips always overcook, get too charred or slip through the grates, or the skin comes off and sticks to the grates. Such a mess!

The belly flap issue, according to the article, can be resolved by turning the salmon steaks into salmon medallions. What the author did was give the steaks a “tummy tuck” by removing the skin of one of the belly flaps and tucking the flesh into the center of the steak. Then the other belly flap is wrapped around the steak, and the whole thing is secured with string.

It made total sense, was a simple solution and is a technique to use whether you grill, broil or bake salmon steaks. And it makes for a nice presentation.

All you need is thick salmon steaks (about 1½ inches) and kitchen string.

When you’re ready to cook the fish, hold the steak and slice about 1½ inches of flesh away from the bottom belly flap, starting at the end. Discard the skin. Tuck that belly flap into the center of the steak. Then wrap the skin-on flap around it and tie the medallion with kitchen string — not too tightly, but just enough to hold it together.

Now you have a neat little salmon package that will cook evenly.

The only other issue with grilling salmon, whether it’s steaks or fillets, is that it tends to stick to the grill.

You could line the grill with foil, but that’s not true grilling — that’s cooking outside. What you need is well-oiled grates so the fish doesn’t stick. And you need to keep an eye on the fish so you know when to turn it.

It’s a technique I learned from “Weber’s Big Book of Grilling” by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRae (Chronicle Books, $22.95).

When you place the salmon flesh on hot-oiled grates, the flesh will cling tighter and tighter to the grates, making it difficult to flip. But once it has cooked enough, the flesh will easily release from the grates, and you should be able to slide a flipper under it and turn it over.

The Cook’s Country article called for grilling the salmon steaks 2 to 3 minutes per side and then transferring them to a foil pan with a buttery sauce to keep them moist and add flavor. You can also just grill the salmon and brush it with the sauce, reserving some to drizzle over the fish when serving.

Grilled Salmon Steaks with Orange-Ginger Sauce

Serves four

Before eating, lift out the small circular bone from the center of each salmon steak.

4 salmon steaks (1 to 1½ inches thick) about 6 to 8 ounces each

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

6 tablespoons orange or tangerine juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into three pieces

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 (13-by-9-inch) disposable aluminum roasting pan

1 thinly sliced green onion

Preheat or prepare a grill for medium-high heat, then turn one burner to low. Or prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling.

Pat salmon steaks dry with paper towels. Working with one steak at a time, carefully trim 1½ inches of flesh from the belly flap. Tightly wrap the other flap around the skinned portion and tie the steaks with kitchen twine. Season salmon with salt and pepper and brush both sides with oil.

In the foil tray, combine the orange zest, orange juice, butter, ginger, soy sauce and ⅛ teaspoon salt.

Oil the cooking grate on the grill. Place the salmon on hot part of grill. Cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, set the foil tray on a cool part of grill and cook until butter has melted, about 2 minutes. Transfer salmon to the tray pan and gently turn to coat. Cook salmon (covered if using gas) until center is still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 6 to 14 minutes. Halfway through grilling, flip the salmon and rotate the pan. When salmon is done, remove twine and transfer salmon to platter. Off the heat, whisk the green onion slices into the sauce. Drizzle sauce over salmon and serve.

Adapted from Cook’s Country Magazine, June 2011 issue.

440 calories (62 percent from fat), 30 grams fat (10 grams sat. fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 428 mg sodium, 130 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

 

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