Much as I love fishing for Columbia River spring Chinook, and all the fun and friends that go with it, my true motivation is much more primitive: Eating Columbia River spring Chinook. I look forward to the deeply flavored, fat-dripping, crispy-skin-covered, melt-in-your-mouth experience all year. In fact, it’s probably my favorite single thing to eat in the entire world. Here’s how we cook it, starting with the prime, center-cut fillet from a 21-pound springer above, scales and pin bones already removed.
Next, I cut the fillet vertically into one-inch-thick steaks, and salt all four sides of each steak liberally with good sea salt or kosher salt. Once it’s salted, I put it in the fridge for 5 to 10 hours, which allows osmosis to work–the salt sucks water moisture out of the fish, then, when it equalizes, the water is reabsorbed. For some reason, this process seals the cell walls, allowing it to hold the moisture within as it cooks.
Shortly before cooking, I use the edge of a knife like a squeegee to force excess moisture out of the skin, above. I poached this technique from Thomas Keller’s gorgeous French Laundry cookbook, and it works like magic. Because the cooking heat doesn’t have to evaporate out all that water, it creates the crisp, crackly, fatty, fish-skin bacon the kids and I crave.
The steaks go onto a hot grill–500 degrees seems to work well–and cook for about six minutes total, turning to crisp all sides. Thanks to the high heat and brined flesh, the entire exterior crisps up almost as much as the skin, and each bite literally melts away in your mouth. My favorite food. Oh, man.