Contributing editor David Draper recently returned from a fishing trip in Alaska. While there, we asked him to cover all things salmon–cooking, eating, and, in one case drinking. This is the third of five stories from his trip.
Spend any amount of time in the 49th state and you’re bound to see the near-ubiquitous Alaska Grown logo on everything from lettuce to long-sleeve t-shirts. The simple seal, originally conceived as a way for Alaska’s agricultural community to emphasize locally grown products, is a nod and a wink among locals to differentiate themselves from the throng of tourists that descend every summer.
One such local is Clayton Jones, executive chef at the popular Anchorage eatery Bear Tooth Grill. At nine years old, Clayton was grounded for subscribing to Field & Stream without his parents permission. Despite the detention, he’s been a reader of the magazine ever since. When not overseeing one of Alaska’s busiest kitchens, he’s plying local waters with a fly rod. He was in the process of packing for a run to the Russian River when I persuaded him with a few pints to take a break and talk fishing and cooking.
After completing culinary school in San Francisco and apprenticing at some of the Bay area’s famous fine dining establishments, Jones returned to Alaska to find a growing interest in the locavore movement. In his three years at the Bear Tooth, he’s made it his mission to incorporate local foods into his menu, claiming the restaurant is probably the largest user of Alaska romaine grown in the nearby Mat-Su Valley.
Clayton also feels Alaskan cooks have a distinct advantage in their immediate access to the world’s freshest seafood, including halibut, crab, and that defining Alaskan ingredient–wild salmon. He said truly fresh salmon needs nothing more than salt and pepper, but he spiced up a salmon fillet for me with a delicious honey porter glaze. And while he wouldn’t commit to a recipe, here’s what I got out of watching him make it. – David Draper
Honey Porter Glazed Salmon**
1 salmon filet
1 cup porter (Preferably Prince William Porter from Anchorage’s Moose’s Tooth Brewery, but any good porter will do.)
½ cup honey
Recado rojo (anchiote chili paste) to taste
Prepare a medium-high to high indirect fire by lighting 20 to 30 charcoal briquettes placed in a pile on one side of your grill.
Prep a salmon fillet by cutting lightly into the meat in a large crosshatch pattern, taking care not to cut through to the skin.
Salt the salmon and set aside while you mix the honey-porter glaze.
Warm honey in microwave or under hot water. Mix the porter and honey in a shallow bowl. Add recado rojo until you achieve your desired level of spiciness.
When coals are covered in ash, use tongs to dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and liberally lube the grill grate.
Brush salmon with honey porter glaze and place skin side up over hot coals. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and baste with glaze. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, basting until the salmon feels firm to the touch and flakes easily with the blade of a knife.