Many sport fishermen consider pink salmon to be the least desirable amongst the five species of BC wild salmon, but I love it, and so do some of Vancouver’s leading chefs. Not only is pink salmon delicious and nutritious, it’s a sustainable fishery.
One of the interesting things about pink salmon: unlike the other species, which have a four-year cycle, there are only two populations of pink salmon, and on odd years like this one, they return in the millions to spawn in Pacific Northwest rivers and streams. (Along with two BC chefs I’ll be cooking a whole bunch of pink salmon at this year’s Pink Salmon Festival at Vancouver's Hadden Park on Kit's Point on August 30th from noon to 4.00 p.m. and hope to see you there!)
Pinks are smaller than their cousins, with an average size of about four pounds or two kilos, so they’re usually sold as whole fish. That means the best way to grill them is to wrap them in foil.
The following simple technique (which originally appeared in my cookbook, Barbecue Secrets DELUXE! as a way of preparing trout) gives the salmon a subtle and delicate flavor and texture, and the orange adds a lovely flavor and aroma. Get the freshest possible fish—pinks are best soon after they’re caught!
Makes 4 servings
1 whole, cleaned 4 lb | 2 kg pink salmon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tbsp | 45 mL butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp | 25 mL chopped fresh parsley
1/2 medium white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 oranges, one sliced into thin rounds, and the other sliced in half for squeezing
sprigs of parsley for garnish
Prepare your grill for medium direct heat. Tear off a strip of heavy-duty foil 21/2 times as long as the fish and double it. Spread 1 Tbsp | 15 mL of the butter evenly over the top surface of the foil. Distribute about a third of the onion slices on the foil, making a kind of bed for the salmon. Lightly season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper, and sprinkle it with chopped parsley. Place another third of the onion slices and half the orange slices inside the body cavity and the rest on top of the fish. Daub the remaining 2 Tbsp | 30 mL butter inside the fish and on top of the onion and orange slices. Squeeze half the remaining orange over everything and wrap the foil around the fish, sealing it tightly.
Place the foil package on the cooking grate, cover the grill, and cook the salmon for 10–15 minutes, or until the fish is just done (about 140 to 150˚F | 60 to 66˚C). You can poke a meat thermometer through the foil in the last few minutes of cooking to check for doneness. To serve, open up the foil, carefully transfer the fish to a warmed platter, and pour the juices left in the foil over the fish. Garnish the salmon with orange wedges and parsley sprigs, and finish it with a final squeeze of fresh orange.
[Photo of trout in foil copyright John Sinal Photography. Used with permission.]