Summertime means grill time in Florida. And although it's moving into fall, we here in the Sunshine State know that we are still months away from cooler weather. Blistering sun, afternoon showers on a daily basis and the hum of cicadas in the air set the perfect scene for some great fire-cooked foods and excellent craft beer — especially when it comes to grilling salmon. Its tender, flavorful meat is nearly perfect on its own, or can be accented by a host of different spices, herbs or marinades.
For summer salmon grilling, I like to keep things light and simple. I tend to select wild-caught, sustainably fished sockeye salmon — beautiful color and firmness and great flavor every time. I find wild-caught to have a much better taste than farm-raised, and the fact that they have been caught using sustainable practices helps ensure the health of the fisheries.
I do very little to the fish before grilling, but tend to prefer it with the skin on. It holds the fillet together, crisps up beautifully and prevents me from having to flip the fish and have it fall apart on the grill. I drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over the fillet and then lightly sprinkle it with some lemon pepper. Finally, I lay a couple of sprigs of fresh dill over the top. On the grill, I place the fish on the top rack with another couple of springs of dill placed under the fish. If you have a meat thermometer, you'll want to cook the fish until it is about 140 degrees at the thickest part, for no more than 10 minutes. The salmon should be flaky and moist.
This salmon can be paired with just about any side dish, really. I often do rice or couscous, but since I've already got the grill going, I like to throw some red potatoes on. This is a very simple process. Halve the potatoes and boil then for about 10-15 minutes or until they are just soft. Drain them, then lightly coat with olive oil and whatever herbs and spices you prefer. I like a bit of garlic powder and some sea salt. Place the potatoes on the grill, turning every few minutes until you have some nice grill marks.
Finally, but no less important, the beer selection. A good India Pale Ale (IPA) pairs very well with this dish, and one from Anderson Valley Brewing Company is just the ticket. This Boonville, California, brewery has been making great beer since 1987. With a great lineup of flavorful and award-winning beers, Anderson Valley has recently begun canning their brews as well. It has become an accepted fact among many craft beer lovers that cans are the preferred way to package beer. Ecologically sensitive, less expensive and offering better protection for the beer itself, cans have become the choice of more and more breweries. Perfect for Florida living, the canned beers are even fresher-tasting and more flavorful than the bottled versions.
The Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA is a perfect example. It pours a brilliant copper color with a lingering, craggy white head, and its aromas are strong with grapefruit, pine, citrus and floral notes. Rich in the citrusy, resiny flavors typical of the Pacific-Northwest hops packed into this beer, it's balanced perfectly with a solid malt character and crisp bitterness leading to a beautifully dry, light herbal finish. I have had it in the bottle in the past, and loved it, but in the can the flavor and aroma really pop, and bring this beer to the next level. The citrus and herbal notes nicely complement the fresh herbs on the salmon, and the body of this beer stands up to the rich flavor of the salmon itself.