That is one of many salmon fillets I've got stashed in my freezer - the spoils of many trips down to the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers last summer with family and friends, dipnetting my heart out. The small fillet above is from the Kasilof River. The much-larger fillets pictured below are from the Kenai River. The rivers are close in location but the size of their salmon are totally different.
Dipnetting in July is something I look forward to all year long. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it, and I instinctively count on my fingers how many months it is until July rolls around. I close my eyes and try to picture where in the deep, wide ocean the salmon are at that moment. It's a fever. An addiction. But as far as addictions go, it's not so bad. Instead of a DUI or lung cancer, I come out of it with a freezer filled with salmon, like a fishy treasure chest.
At the mouth of the Kenai River last July:
This past year my family suffered a salmon catastrophe. My parents are newly-retired and they spent way more time fishing than I did. They caught their limit. Their freezer was busting at the seams with salmon. But then they went on vacation for a month and before they left, my dad was doing the typical dad thing, wandering through the house, battening down the hatches, locking doors and windows and -- God help him -- he flipped a breaker switch for one part of the house. No sense in wasting electricity, right? Unfortunately, that switch was the one keeping the freezer frozen. My friends. They lost eeeevvvveeerrrryyyyttthiiingggg. My brother was house-sitting but didn't notice the smell soon enough. It took him two weeks of garbage days to get rid of it all. You've probably never thought about it (please tell me you've never had to think about it) but rotted-then-refrozen salmon weighs a ton. We were kind of worried lifting it would break the mechanical arm on the garbage truck and then not only would all of that salmon have been wasted but we might have been held financially-responsible for repairing a mechanical arm. Insult... meet injury.
It pains me to think about it.
It will always pain me to think about it.
My dad will never forget. My mom won't let him.
But let's focus on the positive... here's some salmon that is not rotten.
Usually when I make salmon, I don't do much of anything to it because I like the taste of it so much. Many people eat it because it's good for them and it's plentiful here in Alaska if you have the wherewithal to go catch yourself some, but they don't really like it and so they cover it up with sauces and marinades. I usually just go with olive oil, salt and pepper. But last night I went a little crazy and made a coconutty, peanutty, curried Thai sauce to drizzle over this salmon. I used this recipe for inspiration but once I got their sauce made I thought it was a bit drab and lacking in pizzazz so I tinkered with it a little, adding this and that.
First you make a paste with garlic and ginger and all sorts of other spices and seasonings. It's pretty and it smells lovely:
And then you whisk in coconut milk and bunch of other stuff. By the time I was done with it, I kinda wanted to eat this sauce by the spoonful.
Okay. I admit it, I did eat quite a few spoonfulls of it.
Salmon on the grill:
So I grilled the salmon and roasted and crisped some red potatoes in the oven, and also served some green peas. The sauce was just as good on the potatoes and peas as it was on the salmon.
Unfortunately, my finished product photos weren't to my liking so you'll just have to take it from me: YUM.
I ended up with a bowl of leftover sauce (I did not complain), so the next day for lunch I sliced up some vegetables I had on hand (red cabbage, carrots, red onion, and red bell pepper), cooked up some soba noodles, and mixed it all in with the sauce. Again: YUM. I licked the bowl.
Here's my version.
Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce
Enough salmon for four people. A serving size is maybe 6 ounces... so, a pound and a half of salmon, or so. I find salmon is easier to grill if you cut it into portion sizes, rather than trying to flip an entire fillet on the grill
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh gingerroot
2 large cloves minced garlic
A glug of oil of your choice -- something nutty would be good, if you have it, peanut or walnut
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
Small pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk - I used the light version
3 tablespoons tomato sauce, or puree some canned diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of fish oil
1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste.
In a heavy saucepan, sauté gingerroot and garlic in oil over medium-high heat, stirring, until golden. Add dry spices and red curry paste and sauté, stirring, 1 minute, or until fragrant. Whisk in remaining ingredients and bring just to a boil. Simmer while you grill the salmon.
Brush salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill salmon on an oiled rack until just cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side. Serve drizzled with sauce.