From Seattle, to Portland, to the Smoker…
The family and I just returned from a quick weekend in Seattle. I was there for Taste Washington — the nation’s largest single-region wine and food event — and the family came along to do some sight seeing. (More on Taste WA later)
The optimist in me was visualizing a perfectly sunny and warm weekend, as the city had just experienced one week prior to our visit. We were going to spend time outside, go on a ferry ride, walk around Bainbridge Island, eat ice cream, and maybe frolic in the sun….
But Mother Nature had different plans (i.e. rain… lots and lots of rain. Shocking!). The ferry ride did not happen, nor did we spend much time outside. And no frolicking in the sun.
Hubby and the kids managed to spend some time at the waterfront while I was at the wine event, and Sunday they woke up early. Like 5:00am early. Luckily, Pike Place Market opens early too. And I discovered that early morning is actually the best time to avoid crowds!
We walked around the market as the flower and craft vendors were setting up, grabbed some snacks for the boys, and headed to watch “the men throw the fish” as the boys would refer to it (i.e. the famous Pike Place Fish).
Definitely a tourist attraction, but when we perused the fish selection we quickly realized they have some absolutely gorgeous looking fish. The salmon, in particular, had a gorgeous color to it and smelt super fresh. Since we were headed out that afternoon hubby decided we couldn’t leave empty-handed and bought a copper river salmon filet for us to barbecue that night.
The guys who were working that morning couldn’t have been nicer! I’d imagine having to “perform” all day long would get tiresome. But they were super friendly, incredibly knowledgeable and eager to share information, and they were great with the kids (bonus). Go crew!
Is that a salmon in your backpack?
Why yes it is!
After some additional sightseeing (more on that this coming Friday) we decided to head home early to smoke our gorgeous salmon.
Salmon has always been one of my favorite things to smoke. Since we first purchased the smoker this has been a go-to recipe of ours. We’ve tweaked it a bit since the first time we posted the recipe, but the preparation remains simple. The idea is to honor the natural flavors of the fish while adding a bit of smoke infusion.
Start by sprinkling some salt and pepper on your fish, rubbing the fish with a bit of Dijon mustard for moisture and flavor, and then sprinkle with a simple dry rub. Don’t go overboard on the Dijon. A little goes a long way in terms of adding the right amount of flavor.
Place on your smoker for roughly 90 minutes. Much can change the time like ambient temperature and such, but at 275 degrees for a filet it took us 90 minutes. Look for a moist, slightly opaque, and pink interior. The salmon, once removed from the heat, will continue to cook, so that way you avoid it drying out.
(Alternatively you could use a gas grill and place the salmon on a cedar plank over medium heat for added flavor. Adjust the cooking time. If you use a cedar plank, soak it in water for about an hour as that will avoid the plank from flaming up.)
Now wait patiently for your smoker to come up to temperature.
While you’re waiting, pop open your wine. We went traditional with Oregon Pinot Noir (see below).
Place salmon on smoker, and let it do its thing.
When the salmon is done, let it sit 15 minutes then cut up into individual servings.
- 1 filet of Copper River Salmon ours was 2 ½ lbs
- Salt & Pepper
- Up to 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard depending on size of salmon filet
- 2 tablespoons Basic Dry Rub
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup chili powder
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- this dry rub will yield approx 1 cup. Use only a couple tablespoons on the salmon, then save the rest for future recipes
Preheat the smoker to 250 - 275 degrees.
At the same time prepare salmon by washing in cold water and patting dry. Place skin side down on a sheet pan.
Add salt and pepper liberally. Then add the Dijon mustard by rubbing onto the meat. Be careful not to over coat, a nice thin layer for flavor is all you need.
Then add dry rub to the salmon.
Place salmon on smoker for up to 90 minutes. Note that temperature and time will vary, pay special attention to the interior of the salmon using a knife. As the center gets closer to an opaque pink interior in the thickest portion of the filet, you can remove as the salmon will finish while resting. Let the salmon sit for 15 minutes and serve.
Hands down Pinot Noir is the most popular pairing for Salmon. Pinot Noir, especially from Oregon, has a lovely silky texture, with bright red fruit characteristics (cherry, strawberry and raspberry), often displaying earthy and spiced notes, with mild tannins. These characteristics are a fantastic match for the uniquely sweet flavors of Salmon and it’s silky textures. Pinot is not an over the top wine, nor is salmon an over the top protein (so long it’s prepared simply).
Plus they also say what grows together goes together. Pacific NW Salmon + Oregon Pinot Noir. You betcha!
Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
13.3% abv | $32 (media sample)
This is the inaugural release of Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, a boutique winery founded in 2013. Owner Liz Chambers teamed up with winemaker Michael Stevenson to produce 3,500 cases of wine, sourcing their fruit from some of the most respected vineyards in the region.
On the homepage of their website you’ll find a cool quote reflecting the philosophy of owner, Liz Chambers —
“It may be because I am a woman, but I’m not interested in seeing who can make the wine with the biggest muscles. I want to drink wines that have table manners, wines that can dance. I want elegance and style in my wines.”
This is exactly what you find in this elegant Pinot Noir with pretty aromas of cherry, spice, with a bit of cloves and earth. The wine exudes silky and smooth textures in the mouth with mild tannins, mild oak influence, and excellent acidity. Prime characteristics for a good food wine…. especially salmon.
But what about “smoke” flavor? Wouldn’t that be a bit harsh for Pinot Noir?
The thing about the way we smoke our salmon (or anything for that matter) is that it doesn’t leave you with the feeling that you’ve just been to a campfire. That’s not the style of barbecue we do. We strive for balance. This means mild smoke integration so that the natural flavors of the fresh fish aren’t masked by fire and wood. Much like balanced wine, no single flavor should dominate with our barbecue.
Together these two made for a great pairing. The fish had a fantastic silky texture, still maintaining its freshness; with some spice notes from the dry rub and balanced smoke integration. These textures and flavors married nicely with the fruit and spice notes on the wine. Neither overpowered each other. Instead, they complimented each other nicely.
This was also an excellent inaugural release for Elizabeth Chambers Cellar. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for more of their wines in the very near future.
Got leftover salmon?
That may have seemed like a big piece of salmon for four people. But we used the leftovers to make this smoked salmon dip the very next day.
For more on food and wine pairing, head over to the recipe index where you will find more original recipes with wine recommendations.
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