We found out later that he doesn’t really care for salmon and halibut, which are our two main types of fish up here in Alaska.
We planned to eat out most nights, but we wanted to have them over for dinner at least once, and I wanted our menu to be Alaskan. I defrosted a caribou tenderloin (courtesy of one of Liesl’s fellow mechanics) and a salmon filet (a gift from Liesl’s boss’s daughter).
But here’s the thing. I’ve lived in Alaska for six years, and I still feel like a cheechako when it comes to cooking fish and game. Salmon, halibut, fresh-caught prawns, caribou, moose–it’s all so precious and I’m afraid I will desecrated it by cooking it badly.
Enter my friend the interwebs. After poking around online for a while, I decided to cut the still-frozen tenderloin into medallions, coat them with a dry rub, and let them continue defrosting. At the last minute, I added high-heat sesame oil to the Ziploc bag, so the meat wouldn’t stick to the pan. Caribou is extremely lean. Liesl’s boss told me that basically you let it hit a hot pan, turn it over, and take it out of the pan. That’s only slight hyperbole. I cooked the defrosted medallions in a hot, cast-iron grill pan for just under two minutes on each side, and they were tender, between rare and medium-rare.
Cooking two proteins for company was an ambitious experiment. I needed one of the proteins to be low-stress, and given the constraints of cooking caribou, that meant the salmon had to be compliant. I found a recipe for slow-baked salmon, and improvised from there.
I happen to have an abundance of limes at the moment–an impulse purchase at Costco. A smear of olive oil on the aluminum foil, then the beautiful red-orange fish. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, and lime zest. A bath of olive oil and lime juice. Slow-baked at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes. Simple. Delicious. Even Liesl’s grandfather enjoyed it.
I love simple recipes that aren’t really recipes. I’m looking forward to improvising on the basic technique.
Yesterday I made salmon this way again, this time with a fresh-caught filet that one of Liesl’s customers caught in Cordova. There are leftovers in the fridge, and as soon as I publish this, that’s where I’m headed.