Tyson Fick has devoted his career to Alaskan salmon. A part-time commercial fisherman and former fishing guide, Fick has served as spokesman for the Alaskan fishing industry for the last five years. He’s caught and eaten more than his share of the five Pacific varieties: king (a k a Chinook), sockeye, coho, pink and chum.
“Salmon is not just salmon,” he says. “They all have slightly different flavors and mouthfeel, so they pair differently with wine. The king and sockeye have a more robust flavor and more Omega-3s than pink, so they can pair well with Pinot Noir.”
Wild Pacific salmon typically has half the total fat of its farm-raised Atlantic counterparts. Fick says most of the wild salmon sold in U.S. supermarkets is sockeye, with its bright red flesh and flaky texture. Fick likes to season his sockeye lightly with spicy Middle Eastern harissa and grill it with care.
- 4 skin-on sockeye salmon fillets, about 8 ounces each
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste (available in specialty shops or Middle Eastern groceries)
Rub salmon with harissa. Marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes. Lightly oil grill and heat to 500˚F. Place filets over direct heat, flesh-side down. Turn after 3 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Move fillets away from direct heat, and reduce temperature or move coals away. Cook 8 minutes, or until center just turns from red to pink. Use spatula to separate and lift fillets from skin (unless you like crispy skin). Serve on warm plates. Serves 4.
The pairing here is wild to wild. A fascinating, native-yeast and non-oaky red wine brings exotic aromas like oolong tea and dried mushrooms to meet the strong, meaty and spicy salmon dish. Baxter’s 2013 Valenti Vineyard Pinot Noir from Mendocino Ridge offers just that, with flavors that are not so much fruity as savory, while its firm tannins and medium body help dissolve the extremely rich salmon as you sip.