Recently friends and I were comparing our salmon recipes and reached the consensus that there are far more salmon recipes than there are cooks in Alaska. We also agreed that many commercial salmon-bakes fail for one simple reason – the fish is overcooked, it dries out, and the flavor of the salmon is lost. This is one reason many visitors to Alaska think they don’t like salmon.
A good basting sauce is one trick that helps keep salmon moist. There are many variations for a Southeast Alaska salmon-bake, but this recipe from the Taku Lodge south of Juneau is considered a classic. Here it’s been tweaked to create a marinade for the fish that then doubles as the basting sauce. I recommend using a good quality white wine for the marinade and basting sauce, but I prefer to serve the salmon paired with a nice Oregon pinot noir.
Southeast Alaska Salmon Bake
8 – 6 ounce wild Alaska salmon fillets
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup butter
Lemon wedges or slices for garnish
1) In a large bowl combine brown sugar, wine, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2) Rinse salmon and pat dry. Add to marinade and turn to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Do not over-marinate.
3) Carefully remove salmon from the marinade and transfer to a large baking sheet. Pour marinade into a large sauce pan, place over medium heat, add butter. Stir until butter is melted and the mixture is simmering.
4) Place the salmon pieces skinned side down, on a well-oiled grill over a bed of medium-hot coals (or medium-high heat on a gas grill). Brush the fish with the marinade. Cook until salmon pieces are browned on the bottom, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.
5) With a fish spatula, carefully turnthe pieces. Brush again with marinade and cook, basting often, until the salmon is just opaque. The salmon should still be moist the center of the thickest part. Do not overcook.
6) Transfer salmon to a warm platter and garnish with lemon wedges or slices. Serves 8.