Grilled King Salmon with English Peas and Mint

Grilled King Salmon with English Peas and Mint

From “Grill to Perfection: Two Champion Pit Masters Share Recipes and Techniques for Unforgettable Backyard Grilling” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart, and Andrea Pyenson (Page Street Publishing Company, 2014)

Andy grew up in Seattle, and as far as he’s concerned there is nothing better than King salmon (also known as Chinook salmon) from Puget Sound. It is the biggest, and some say the best-tasting, salmon in the world. On the grill, with a simple garlic butter and lemon, it can rock your world. In the spring, when we can get fresh peas, we love this preparation.

Two of the most common issues that come up when grilling fish are its proclivity to stick to the grates and to dry out. These are easily addressed with patience and knowing when it is done. For salmon, we want an internal temperature of 140oF/60oC—a nice soft pink on the inside. Professional cooks can tell by touch, feeling the spring, or give, to know whether the fish is done. This takes practice, and your reward is a great sense of accomplishment when you master it.

(Note from Jill: Read this post on how to tell, by touch, when meat, poultry, or fish is done.)

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons/30 mL olive oil, plus more for fish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups/300 g blanched English peas or frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 cups/475 mL whole milk
  • 30 leaves fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL whole-grain mustard
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 6-ounce/170 g salmon fillets, skinned and deboned

Build a medium direct fire. Spread an even layer of unlit charcoal in the bottom of the grill. Fill a chimney halfway with charcoal. Stuff two sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the chimney and light it. When the coals are fully engaged—you should see flames peeking over the top—pour them over the unlit charcoal. If using a gas grill, light the gas and adjust temperature on both sides to medium.

Make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat, stirring, for 2 to 4 minutes, until the garlic is dark brown. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer the garlic and oil to a blender. Add the peas, milk, and mint, and puree on high until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and stir in the mustard. Season with Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until needed, up to 1 day in advance.

When you can hold your hands over the fire for no more than 5 to 8 seconds, clean the grill grate. Lightly brush the salmon fillets with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes. It is very important not to move the fish. If you move it too soon, or if the grill grates were not hot enough, the flesh will tear when you move it. Once a sear has developed, rotate the fillets 90 degrees and grill for 1 minute more. Flip the fillets and repeat the process, until a thermometer inserted into the fish registers 140oF/60oC. Depending on the thickness of the cut, this should take 5 to 6 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking, heat the pea sauce slowly, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and set aside until the salmon is done.

Divide the pea sauce equally among 4 plates, and place the salmon on top. Serve immediately.