Saturday, September 08, 2012

Late Summer Westcoast Dinner

Through a series of disastrous events yesterday represented my only day off of the week so I wanted to ensure that it was a good day. It also marked the end of daughter's first week of High School so her survival certainly deserved some sort of celebration and what better way to celebrate than with a classic west coast meal of wild Sockeye on the grill.

Sockeye is my favourite variety of Pacific salmon for home cooking because it is rich in flavour but more readily available than Spring, or King as the Americans call them. The dark red flesh of Sockeye is so visually appealing and the high fat content means they are full of flavour and stand up well to the high heat of the grill. As is the case with most super premium ingredients I don't do much to Sockeye when grilling it, if it's whole fish I will salt and pepper the cavity and add some sliced lemon and maybe some aromatics such as fresh dill or, even better, chopped fennel. Last night's Sockeye came in the form of a fillet, incredibly on sale at Nesters Market on Main Street for $6.98 a pound, previously frozen but who cares.

I checked the fillet for pin bones and removed one or two with tweezers then seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon zest and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil - that's it. I made a celery risotto while the grill got hot and then green beans were grilled before adding the salmon to a super hot grill. The fish was grilled for about three minutes per side to produce medium rare and served with the risotto and grilled beans, I really can't think of a better late summer west coast dinner and to add to the west coast feel we drank a lovely BC white wine recently purchased on our trip to the Okanagan.

The wine, a 2010 Viognier, was one of several white wines from Hillside Estate that impressed me during my tasting expedition on the Naramata bench. Hillside has been around since the 1980s, a virtual eternity in Okanagan wine terms, and has rarely received much in the way of "buzz" but the past three seasons of my tastings have showed a consistent improvement in the wines, particularly whites, though I still think the pricing is a bit ambitious. The 2010 Viognier sells for around $20 at the winery and is a very good representation of the variety, the wine has lots of peach fuzz, floral and honey notes in the nose and a slightly herbal, apricot/white peach flavour with a long finish and a big full mouth feel. Viognier is pretty forceful for a white wine and as such it was a great match to the rich grilled Sockeye. At $20+ a bottle it's hard for me to get overly enthusiastic about this wine but it is a very good example of Viognier, excellent with food and worth grabbing a bottle or two for "better than everyday" occasions. The weight and spice of the wine would also make it a nice accompaniment to spicier fare such as jambalaya or, of course, fish tacos.

It appears that summer is going to stay with us for a while longer as the weather forecasts are calling for continued sunshine and temperatures in the 20 degree range so hopefully we won't put the grill away until October, but if we do it was certainly a pleasure to sneak in one more helping of Sockeye on the Weber before the oven gets put back to use.

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