Surf vs. turf

I can understand why Chicagoans eat a lot of meat. My brother-in-law is known for it because, of course, he is from Chicago. His freezer is rarely without a rack of ribs and I don't know how my sister ever gets him to eat any greens. If I want to treat him to something special, I go straight to Paulina Meat Market and pick up some of their lovely thinly sliced garlic beef summer sausage or hot Italian sausages for the grill.

At my fancy English Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, Andy showed up with a platter of mini weiners- pigs n' blankets. Admittedly, they went down a storm.

I know we're not particularly close to any ocean whatsoever, but the fish we get up in Michigan is phenomenal. I hear you say that Chicago is also on Lake Michigan, but we are a city of tough men who like their meat.

England has spoiled me. I long for the time when I could call my local fishmonger, Steve Hatt, and order some monkfish, john dory or dover sole... all of which are delicious with any delicate sauce. Steve is an imposing figure who barks orders at his young staff, all wearing white wellington boots and plastic aprons. The tiny storefront in Islington has it's own smokehouse and they sell smoked kippers, mackerel, trout and haddock.

Steve has been outspoken about "ethical" fishing and I knew anything I bought there was sustainable. Cod, in particular, many a Brit's favorite fish, is extremely over-fished and is now mostly imported from Norway or Iceland to the UK. Unfortunately, they come from big trawlers with large nets and are not sustainable.

I have found a good fish shop here in Chicago, Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop, and of course there's always Costco. This week, I wanted a piece of fish to cook over hot coals. After receiving a set of wood planks for the barbecue a few years back, I've cooked a quite a few successful pieces of fish that, without the plank, would have been either burnt or completely dry.

Upon a recent visit to Costco, I was overjoyed when I saw that their fresh fish stand had expanded for the summer months. Crab claws, whole red snapper, clams and mussels were all tempting until I saw bright coral whole filets of sockeye salmon. Salmon, for me, is not my favorite fish, but if I can get it where it's in the whole filet, then I love to grill it.

It's best if you have a cedar plank for this- you can get them almost anywhere these days and I've seen them in London and back here in the US. You'll need to soak the plank in water, with something on top of it to weigh it down, between 1 and 24 hours. Longer soaking means reduced smoking when you put it on the grill.

If you can't get a plank, then make a foil tray from two layers of aluminum foil, pinching them around the edges to make a platter.

Sockeye Salmon with a Mustard Herb Crust
Adapted from The Plank Grilling Cookbook by Michelle Lowrey

Serves 2 greedy people

One large sockeye salmon fillet
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 small lemon, juiced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup of unseasoned panko breadcrumbs
lemon wedges for garnish.

To make the mustard crust, combine mayo, lemon juice, dill, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well. Spread mustard mixture evenly over the filet.

Sprinkle liberally with panko breadcrumbs to form a thick, even coating. Lightly press the crumbs into the salmon so they stick.

Light your coals in the barbecue and get them white hot.

Place the filet on the plank skin side down and place the plank on the grill. Close the lid and grill until crispy on the surface but still moist and opaque in the center- about 15-20 minutes depending on thickness of the fish. If you're like me, I prefer a thinner filet, so mine took 15 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges.

I like to serve this with grilled veggies, some garlicky rice and sliced fresh tomatoes. Don't forget a glass of chilled crisp white wine.
I'm up in Michigan next week for the fourth of July and a big family reunion. I'm looking foward to cooking with my sister (in between snuggling my niece and nephew), my two Aunts, Patty and Michelle, and my cousins, Christine and Lauren. I've come up with a menu that I hope everyone will love when we get together on the 4th!


  1. This salmon looks awesome! Costco does it again.

    I love that Andy got a mention...his mini Pigs n' Blankets are a huge hit every time. For added effect, you can make a large pig n' a blanket as a centerpiece for the party platter, using a larger hot dog instead of a cocktail wiener. Then you can take bets on who at the party will eat the giant Pig n' a Blanket centerpiece. Only recommended after many cocktails.

  2. I know that this is not only a suggestion, but something the two of you have tried at one of your holiday parties. I feel sorry for the poor soul who ate the big wiener.

  3. I thought Costco only sold things like microwaves and freezers! This looks delicious as always x

  4. Thanks Henri! Costco pretty much sells anything you'd ever want...great selection of wine, meats, cheeses. It's easy to get carried away!

  5. If you invited us, I feel certain that a Priddy would eat the big wiener.

  6. I feel certain of it as well :)

  7. There's a great book out there called simply "Cod" by Mark Kurlansky which is a fantastic read. He's also done a book on Oysters (the first book of his I read) that was fantastic as well.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for the suggestions Brian- I will have to add them to my ever expanding reading list. I'm currently reading Beard on Food by James Beard and loving it. Keep the book advice coming!

  9. wild sockeye is the only salmon i will eat! it's the best. during the week for a quick dinner, i sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and cut strips of lemon peel with a zester. bake in the oven around 350. it's SO easy, delish and pretty :)

  10. seriously good suggestion for sockeye Lisa...I love it's simplicity. that sounds exactly what I do with whitefish when in Michigan- I should try it with sockeye!