Monday, June 8, 2009

Salmon Grill Packets (aka THE BEST DINNER YOU WILL EVER EAT)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Long, long ago, in the days when my SH and I dwelled in that little spot of heaven otherwise known as Austin, Texas, we treated ourselves to that friendly device, ever appropriate for evening gatherings under a sweltering moon, the grill. Many a night or weekend afternoon we could be found preparing a whole host of delicious foodstuffs for the grill: the old classic: big, juicy steaks, hamburgers thoroughly seasoned with salt and course black pepper, thick, glistening chunks of salmon or tuna, chicken breasts and thighs doused in my favorite barbecue sauce, the peach-habanero variety from HEB... We loved our grill-nary a weekend went by that it wasn't fired up. Alas, when the time came for us to pack up our belongings and move to California, we discovered, upon close examination, that a large portion of the wiring system had been destroyed by some woodland creature. I choose to believe that it was a squirrel, NOT another member of the rodent family, which I shall not name. Needless to say, our beloved grill was beyond repair, and found itself haphazardly tossed near the dumpster in a local apartment complex (What can one do when moving in the middle of the week with multiple bags or items for the trash? You must resort to illegal activity, as we did!)

We lived with my dear in-laws for several months, and were fortunately able to enjoy a California summer full of grilling opportunities. Once we moved into our house, I immediately began to dream of burgers, kebabs, and shrimp, fully anticipating that we'd rush out and purchase a grill right away. Months passed, however, and we found ourselves fully overwhelmed with other household concerns. We did lots of painting, laid sod down to create a gorgeous backyard, and became enraptured with all of our natural bounty (oranges, avocados, etc.). Finally, just a few weeks ago, PRACTICALLY INTO JUNE, I put my foot down, and emphatically told my SH that we just had to go out and get a grill. No more dilly-dallying!

While this dinner, the most divine salmon grill packets, is not the first meal that we prepared on our new grill, it is undoubtedly one of the best that will ever be produced by any grill!

I came across the recipe in one of my Everyday with Rachael Ray magazines, which I save and peruse frequently. Not all recipes in the magazine are written by Rachael, obviously, and this particular one came from an article about grilling. How convenient.

The dish is quite simple to prepare-basically just whisking together the ingredients for the sauce and mixing the tasty couscous ingredients. The couscous mixture, a toss of scallions, orange zest, and chopped roasted cashews is divided into each foil rectangle, then topped with a healthy helping of spinach leaves. Salmon fillets are laid gracefully atop the couscous, and a sheen of bright sauce is brushed over them. The foil is then folded across the top and rolled in on the sides to create a packet. My SH was particularly proud of his careful folding of the packet before I poured on the sauce, making a sort of "box" out of his foil. I have to admit, some of the sauce dripped out of my packet-he is clearly the champion of packet-making.

The salmon is then trotted right outside to the grill, where it sits for approximately 25 minutes. You can use this time to clean the kitchen and grab two plates (or however many you need). Because of the packet, cleanup is a cinch!

I am not sure that there are words enough to convey the utter delicious-ness of this dish. The packet opens to reveal what looks like a delicately poached, pale pink salmon. The ginger, soy, and orange in the sauce meld beautifully with the fish, and seep gently into the couscous, which retains a bit of crunch, especially with the chunks of cashew. The spinach, which has steamed perfectly in its coveted spot under the salmon, picks up hints of scallions and sesame. The whole thing, in a word? Delectable. Literally, I cannot say enough. I devoured a huge packet last night and another at lunch, and I wish there was more for dinner.

Thank you, grill, for giving me this dinner.

Salmon Grill Packets
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2007

(serves 4)

1 cup couscous
1/3 cup roasted cashews, chopped
5 scallions-3 chopped, 2 cut into matchsticks for garnish
Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 1/2 tablespoons mirin (sweetened rice wine-I can usually find it in the Asian food section of the grocery store)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing (again, the Asian food aisle)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cups baby spinach
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Salt and pepper

1. Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. In a small bowl, combine the couscous, cashews, chopped scallions and orange peel; set aside.
2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, sherry, soy sauce, mirin, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and the ginger; set aside.
3. Tear off four 2-foot long sheets of heavy-duty foil and fold each in half to form a rectangle; brush the center of each lightly with sesame oil. Divide the couscous mixture evenly among the 4 rectangles and top each pile with 1 cup baby spinach and a fish fillet; season with salt and pepper. Fold the edges of the foil up and inward to start forming a packet. Whisk the grilling sauce and pour about 1/4 cup into each packet. Roll up the edges of the foil together to seal.
4. Grill the packets over indirect medium heat, with the lid down, for 25 minutes. Let the fish rest for 3 minutes before opening the packets. Garnish with the remaining scallion match sticks.

P.S. How awesome is my new moonstone ring? I love it!


Hanne said...

Omigod these salmon packets look AMAZING!

Jeb said...

I miss HEB. None of those in Dallas. Their cheese aisle is the best!