So I can’t say that I married Dave for his Dad’s cooking since I hadn’t had this dish until after Dave and I were engaged. But it is possible that Joe’s Salmon sealed the deal. When Dave and I met, dated, and got engaged we were both living far from our respective families. This led to the interesting position of being engaged without actually having met our future in-laws more than once or twice. When I first got the chance to meet Dave’s dad, it was for Dave’s sister Erin’s wedding. No stress there.
In the interest of full disclosure I need to come clean and state for the record that I actually do not remember much of Erin’s wedding or the week leading up to it. This is not due to a poor memory or excessive celebration (that was taken care of by the wedding party). My memory loss is likely due to the fact that I just might have been crazy at the time. So here’s the story…
Erin and Tyler’s wedding was planned for mid-August. For archaeologists August is often a touchy month since we may still be in the field excavating, or we will have just gotten back from the field and are not quite fit for polite company yet. For this particular field season before the wedding… let’s just say that things went wrong… in spades. The highlight was that I didn’t lose my foot and I mean that literally. Dave loves to go into embarrassing detail about this not-so-fun memory, but since he’s not telling this story I can give you the abridged version. Hard field work in far southeastern Turkey led to really bad blisters, which led to a blood infection, which led to lots of antibiotics and blood thinners, all of which eventually led to a fully healed foot with all of my toes still attached and functioning.
All of this leads up, I promise, to a dinner of Joe’s famous salmon. Dave’s dad, Joe, was going to make salmon for our first family dinner in Canada the day that I flew in. With layovers included, I had been traveling by plane and car for over 30 hours, literally traveling from Asia, across Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, and then across North America. When I landed in Vancouver I was hopped up on Dramamine and had been mostly immobile for more than a day, confined in those too-small-for-even-tiny-people plane seats. And then there were my ankles…
I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I fly my ankles swell a little. This time, I was coming from Turkey where it was so hot (over 120 degrees in the day) that we had been consuming excess salt just so that we could retain enough water to not be dangerously dehydrated. I was also still dealing with my damaged foot and lower leg, immobility from the travel, and a cute skirt (meaning exposed lower legs) to meet Dave’s folks. I didn’t just have cankles (the lovely situation when your ankles swell to the size of your calves); I had thankles (replace “ankles” in previous definition with “thighs”). My lower legs were so swollen that there was not even a suggestion of where my ankles were supposed to be; in fact the swollen flesh actually lapped over the supposed ankle area. I was greeted by Dave outside of customs with a kiss, and I asked him to please not look down at my ankles. He did his best, but man… they were impressive.
Dave then drove me from the airport to his parents’ home. It would be another hour or so before I realized that I had left the airport with someone else’s luggage, and therefore had left my own bag complete with dress for Erin’s wedding at the airport. So we went back to the airport, dealt with snarky customs people, returned to the house, and somehow I was still standing and able to speak relatively coherently. Ruth and Joe usherd Dave and I out to the deck for drinks, snacks and a chance to get to know each other. It was only then that they actually had a chance to check me out. From the knees up I was feeling pretty good. I’d been working hard at the excavation, had shed my winter weight, and was as tanned as I ever get (which isn’t much, but it was something). It is also quite possible that I was drooling a bit from the aforementioned plethora of Dramamine I’d taken to survive the flight(s). Ruth and Joe made me feel welcome and at home, assuring me that I wasn’t drooling or slurring too much (sweet, but not true). At some point in the small talk Ruth happened to glance down at where my feet were supposed to be. I think she might have shrieked, but there was definitely a gasp, popping eyes and a gaping mouth. Like I said, the thankles were impressive. She then pushed me (kindly) down into my seat, put my thankles up onto their own chair (I’m surprised that I didn’t need a separate chair for each leg), and got me a couple of cool compresses. And that’s how I ate my first meal with the Hopwoods. A lovely outside dinner of amazing salmon, just the four of us, and my thankles occupying the fifth chair.
From that meal on I only have snippets of memory of the festivities for Erin’s wedding. There was a painful, but effective Thai massage that allowed my destroyed feet to be presentable. I wore my cute, strappy shoes without the appearance of my feet trying to burst out of the straps, and any stumbling was from my inherent grace not from injury. I remember bits of the ceremony; as well as bits and pieces of the reception. Amazing lasagna. Great wedding speeches. A memorable Macarena. Feeling overwhelmed with the number of cousins in existence. And that’s about it. After the wedding I think that I slept for about a week solid.
Which brings me back to the salmon… With all of my crazy, and let’s be honest that was a lot of crazy, the Hopwoods made me feel welcome in the middle of their own crazy whirlwind of the wedding. And that is what this salmon dish makes me think of every time I’m lucky enough to have it. For me, this is love on a plate. Family. It is one of those untranslatable feelings “to be safe and at home amongst people who love you.” We had this meal recently up at the Hopwood cabin as a belated celebration of Dave’s birthday, and that is where these pictures come from. May you have many “safe and at home amongst people who love you” meals in your future.
Joe is likely going to chuckle when he sees quantities listed here for the ingredients. Both Dave and Joe are the kind of gifted cooks who can look at a pantry of food and instinctively combine ingredients into tasty and inventive meals. I am not that type of cook. When Joe makes this salmon, or most any other dish, he does everything by “eye ball” measurement. You just add enough of everything until it looks right. This recipe is an attempt to recreate Joe’s Salmon, and he kindly allowed me to play journalist/paparazzi at the cabin, photographing every move. Any discrepancy or difference in taste from Joe’s dish to this one is from my quantities being not quite what he would have done. But I consider that simply a challenge to keep fiddling until it’s just rightent. Challenge accepted!
¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. Montreal steak seasoning (see recipe at end of post)
1 tbsp. Oregano
2 sides of salmon, skin on (weight varies)
Mix all of the ingredients except for the salmon in a small bowl. Set this aside for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors meld and the marinade thicken.
Meanwhile heat the grill and check the salmon to ensure that all pin bones have been removed.
Once the marinade has rested and the grill is hot, put the fillets skin side down on the grate. Close the cover of the grill and let the salmon cook for 2-3 minutes.
Open the cover of the grill and brush the marinade over the salmon. Close the cover again and grill the fish for 8-10 minutes more, depending on your desired level of doneness. Since salmon is a delicate protein, you should remove it from the grill when it is just underdone to your liking. It will continue cooking a little (carry over cooking) after you remove it from the grill.
Once the salmon is done, use a sharp metal spatula and score the flesh vertically to portion it into appropriate sizes (see pictures below). Then slide the spatula between the skin and the flesh of the fillet, lifting the salmon off of the skin and placing the individual servings on a platter. You are also welcome to remove the entire fillet (skin and all) to a platter and serve it tableside, but for our family this is what we prefer.
Click here for a printable recipe card for Joe’s Salmon.
Montreal Steak Seasoning Recipe
While there are a variety of grocery store brands of this spice blend, it is also super easy to whip up your own. If you have these spices at home already then it is cheaper to mix your own, and you can swap out or in any spices to your preference.
2 tbsp. black pepper, coarsely ground
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. coriander, ground
1 tbsp. chili flakes
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- Mix all spices together in a small bowl.
- Pour them into a spice jar or small container (glass or metal is best), and store in a cool dark place.
- Use the spice blend in your favorite recipes for a little extra heat and peppery flavor.
Click here for a printable recipe card for Montreal Steak Seasoning.