Now that the rains have returned, so have our salmon. We are
pretty fortunate to be able to watch the phenomenal life cycle of
Pacific Northwest salmon in our backyards.
This return, and our growling tummies, got us thinking about how
now would be the perfect time to offer some salmon recipes and
wines to go with them. Coincidentally we’ve also had coverage in
the paper and online this week about salmon, so we’re sticking with
a fishy theme.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, go see the interactive map of some of the
best viewing areas in Kitsap to see the returning salmon. Reporters
Chris Dunagan and Amy Phan spent a lot of time updating the map and
producing the videos.
Looking ahead, there will be a story in the Kitsap Sun
Sunday Life Section by reporter Chris Henry about the tiny
fishing village of Sekiu, where fishermen come together during
salmon season to max out their limits.
This time of year, when salmon spawn, is a good time to dig up
recipes that call for wood-smoked salmon (we’ll save the poached
salmon recipes for the spring).
So what wine do we pair with salmon? It depends, dear reader, on
the big picture. Think about the texture, weight and other
prominent features of the entire dish.
Salmon is dense and fatty (all the good fats, mind you) and that
component makes it a versatile fish. Depending on the texture and
weight of the sauce, salmon can easily pair with a white, rosé
or red wine.
So we look to the sauce to make the best match. A broiled fresh
salmon served with a little lemon and butter is easy. Lemon and
butter are lighter and crisper than say a Gorgonzola cream sauce.
If you’re going to keep it simple and broil the salmon with lemon
and butter, choose a wine that is lighter and crisper such as a
Pinot Grigio or an Arneis.
If you want to add some weight and prepare a side dish with
Gorgonzola cream sauce (see the recipe below), we suggest looking
to a country where all but one wine region touches the sea.
Tortellini, Gorgonzola and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo are staples
in Italy. From the Abruzzi wine region, located in the calf area of
the Italian boot, this wine is made from the Montepulciano grape —
the second most produced wine in Italy behind Sangiovese. The
medium-bodied weight, bright acidity and aromas and flavors of
herbs and cherries make this the perfect wine for this rich dish.
Most are under $10. Look for our favorite, Masciarelli 2009
Tortellini with Smoked Salmon, Walnuts with Gorgonzola
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbs. butter
- 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 Tbs. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- 3/4 cup smoked salmon
- 8 oz. cheese tortellini (cooked)
- Shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
Cook cheese tortellini. In a large sauté pan, toast the walnuts
on medium-high until golden. Reserve. Add the heavy cream and
butter to the pan and bring to a gentile boil. Add Gorgonzola,
garlic, basil, thyme, oregano and simmer until thickened. Continue
to reduce for 2 to 4 minutes, and then add the smoked salmon. Then
add the cooked tortellini. Toss until pasta is hot. Plate and
garnish with Parmesan and toasted walnuts.
Another common way to cook salmon in the Northwest is using an
alder plank. Native people of the Pacific Northwest first devised
the method of cooking salmon on hardwood over an open fire. Today,
however, we’re going for the quick and easy route of oven-baked
using a piece of wood.
There are different planks that can be used. While we prefer the
traditional alder plank, you can also consider other non-resinous
hardwoods such as cedar, hickory, maple or oak. Naturally, the
plank should be clean, at least an inch thick and large enough to
accommodate the salmon.
Ordinary slabs of alder from a lumber mill are inexpensive, but
they generally have to be replaced after the third or fourth time.
You can also purchase an alder plank from a kitchen store. These
are meant to be reused time and time again in the oven. With these
planks you brush them with olive oil, then stick them in the oven
for 30 minutes while it warms up. Once you remove the plank, turn
the oven up to 350 degrees, throw the salmon on the plank, skin
side down, and pop it back in the oven. (Remember when you take the
salmon out to remove the skin, and the gray matter below it before
If you choose a plank that isn’t designed for repeated reuse,
make sure you soak it a minimum of four hours, or if you can
overnight, before popping it in the oven or you may end up with
blackened plank (and one heck of a mess in your oven).
So what “sauce” should you use when planking a salmon? Naturally
you want something that will enhance those subtle smokey wood
One quick and easy answer is to slather the fish in a flavored
butter. Or if you’re trying to kick a dependence on butter,
consider substituting olive oil. Here’s one such recipe:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons finely minced flat leaf parsley, oregano,
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Soften the butter. Using a fork mash together the herbs with
lemon zest until thoroughly combined, then add to the softened
butter. Add the butter to the salmon while it’s still warm so it
can spread while melting.
Also consider basting the salmon with an olive oil and a Herbs
de Provence mixture. Brynn usually eyeballs the mix, but combine a
couple tablespoons of olive oil with a tablespoon of the herbs
(traditionally a combination of savory, fennel, basil, thyme and
lavender), then spread evenly across the fillet.
Not only does a wood plank add delicious flavor and aroma to the
fish, with complementary side dishes of simple boiled potatoes,
caramelized onions and maybe a few decorative sprigs of herbs, it
blossoms into a feast for the eyes, nose and growing appetite.
A perfectly cooked planked salmon with herb-seasoning and tiny
potatoes is a marriage made in heaven.
The delectable fragrance of the fleshy textured salmon mingled
with the aroma of the heated alder and herbed sauce will pair
beautifully with an Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.(Trust us,
we’ve tried and tested this pairing, more than once.)
Argyle is well established in Oregon’s Dundee region. And they
have plenty of experience producing wines with the Pinot Noir
grape, including some of the best sparkling wines.
This wine match works wonderfully with the planked salmon
because of the bountiful flavors and aromas of ripe black cherry
and hints of herb. It also sports a smooth cherry finish.
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