There's no one I've spent more time hunting and fishing with than Captain Alaska (AKA Hughey).
He was there when I shot my first deer, and when I missed a second one from 40 yards. He insists it was closer to 20 yards, but somehow 40 feels to me like an appropriate balance of historical accuracy and personal shame.
In Alaska the odds of your hunting and fishing success double when he is present, similar to the effect Tamasese has on adventures in Hawaii. Apart from the infamous Banana Incident of 2013, our fishing trips have always been successful-both in fish caught and in memories made.
Friendships forged in the wilderness have a special quality, as expressed by the following remark he made as we navigated a dangerous mountainside with heavy packs many years ago:
"If you die up here I won't be able to carry you out... but they only need a head and hands for a proper funeral."
Thanks Captain. I would do the same for you. Maybe even try to save part of the neck, because I know you would never wear a scarf.
Captain Alaska has a starring role in all my best fishing stories (many of which contain actual truth) so it was not a small disappointment when he was unable to join us on the water for this trip. He did offer the use of the Lairegurl (pronounced Larry Girl), his faithful boat which has carried us on many unforgettable adventures. So while his absence was felt, his presence was also.
If you're wondering what any of this has to do with the World's Best Salmon Recipe, it's this:
Food harvested in the company of true friends tastes better.
Probably the World's Best Salmon Recipe:
- 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 T sesame oil
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1 t crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 lbs salmon filet, skin on
- 1 medium purple onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 bunch fresh thai sweet basil
- Alder chunks for smoke (optional)
- Mix marinade ingredients together in gallon size ziplock bag and set aside.
- Cut salmon fillets into 2 inch chunks, leaving skin on. Add to marinade, mix well, and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour (or up to 2 hours). Note: I cut salmon into chunks so that it cooks more evenly. I've also used this recipe with whole filets, but find that the belly meat gets overcooked before the thickest parts are done. This is especially important with leaner species like Sockeye and Silver, which are easy to dry out due to the low fat content.
- Remove fish from marinade (save the marinade). Place the onions on a large piece of doubled tin foil, then place the filets skin side down on top of the onions. Arrange them so the thinner pieces are in the center, and the thicker pieces are around the edges, as the edges will be hotter.
- Fold up edges of foil and crimp corners so juices don't spill. Make sure the edges of the foil are rolled up high and close to fish.
- Add Alder to grill and Preheat to 300 F. For this video I had a gas grill, so I made a foil packet of dry hardwood sticks with a small opening at the top to provide smoke.
- As soon as the wood begins to smoke, slide tin foiled fish and onions onto preheated grill. I use a cutting board or rimless baking sheet to transfer salmon onto the grill.
- Pour marinade back over the fish, being careful not to overflow the foil. If much of the marinade does not fit, put it in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil on either the grill or stovetop.
- Grill salmon on high heat for 5 minutes with the lid closed.
- Baste salmon with marinade. If the thin belly and tail sections are done, you can remove them from the heat and place them on your serving platter. I remove salmon when it reaches an internal temp of 120 F. Or you can look inside a salmon chunk to check for doneness. You want to remove it when the center is still a shade darker than the rest.
- Keep basting until all pieces are done, removing pieces to serving platter as they finish. Sprinkle fresh basil leaves (whole, torn, or chiffonade) over finished salmon. When the last piece is done, move it to your serving platter, drizzle all the finished salmon with the hot marinade and onions and serve immediately.