Bacon. Salmon. Bacon-wrapped salmon. Two favorite foods in one succulent and savory appetizer. On a stick.
Alaska cookbook author LaDonna Rose Gunderson pairs lean, wild-caught salmon with the warm and bright flavors of red pepper, roasted garlic and rosemary, along with the saltiness of crispy pancetta. The fatty flavor of the Italian salt-cured bacon adds to the richness of the flaky fish, wrapped up like little gifts then skewered, grilled and dipped or drizzled with infused olive oil.
The small, decadent bites are full of flavor and relatively simple to fix, perfect for summer grilling not only in Alaska, but the Pacific Northwest and anywhere else wild-caught salmon is readily available.
All the recipes below are from Gunderson’s latest cookbook, “My Tiny Alaskan Oven.”
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PANCETTA-WRAPPED KING SALMON KEBOBS
For the rosemary oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon and more for brushing the grill
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the salmon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ pounds king, coho or sockeye salmon, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1½-inch chunks
4 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced
1. Make the rosemary oil: In a small saucepan, heat ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary and garlic over medium-low heat until the garlic sizzles and begins to brown around the edges, about three minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red pepper flakes. Divide oil between two small bowls with a rosemary sprig in each and let cool to room temperature.
2. Make the salmon: Heat a grill or stovetop grill pan to medium heat.
3. In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil with salmon. Toss to coat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and black pepper. On a work surface, set out rows of three salmon chunks. Unroll pancetta slices into strips. Working with one chunk at a time, wrap strips once or twice around salmon. Skewer each row of salmon with chunks slightly separated.
4. Brush grill grate with oil. Place kebabs on grate, cook turning once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Place kebabs on plates and serve with rosemary oil.
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets, skinned and trimmed
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons fresh dill, minced
4 slices quality thick-cut bacon
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. Season the halibut with the Old Bay seasoning and dill. Wrap the bacon tightly around the middle of the fillet.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the fish, secured side down and cook turning once until the bacon is crisp, about eight minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
CRAB SALAD ON CORN BLINI
Makes 12 to 16
For the salad
1½ cups fresh crabmeat
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, minced
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons mayonnaise, divided
½ teaspoon sea salt, divided
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 avocado, pit and skin removed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 small jalapeño, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced, divided
For the blini
1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
½ cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup 2 percent milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Make the salad: In a medium bowl, gently toss together crab meat, bell pepper, chives, Dijon, 1 teaspoon mayonnaise, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper until mixture is well combined. Refrigerate.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the avocado, remaining mayonnaise, lime juice, half of the jalapeño slices and remaining salt, then pulse until the mixture is smooth.
3. Make the blini: In a small bowl, combine the yeast and water and let stand until foamy, about five minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour and salt. Add the milk, butter and yeast mixture, then whisk until smooth. Let the mixture sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 10 minutes.
4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat; when hot, spray the pan with cooking spray. Working in batches of three, spoon 1 tablespoon batter into skillet for each blini and cook two to three minutes on each side until crisp around the edges and golden brown. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep the blini warm.
5. Top each corn blini with crab salad; garnish with avocado purée and remaining jalapeño slices, if desired.
SMOKED SALMON WITH WILD BERRIES ON GRIT CAKES
The berries bring out the richness of the smoked salmon, also complemented by the “slight sweetness” of the grit cakes.
For the grit cakes
2¼ cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
½ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup uncooked coarse-ground yellow corn grits
3 tablespoons shallot, minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
6 ounces thinly sliced wild smoked salmon
½ cup berries, for garnish
Fresh basil springs, for garnish
For the mixed berry spread
½ cup fresh blueberries
½ cup fresh blackberries
½ cup fresh raspberries or salmonberries
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1. Make the grit cakes: Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth, butter and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in grits and cook one minute. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until grits are thick, whisking frequently, six to eight minutes. Add the shallot, basil and Parmesan, and cook for an additional two minutes.
2. Pour cooked grits into the prepared baking dish. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the grits; refrigerate for two hours or until firm. Unmold chilled grits onto a large cutting board. Cut the grits into 12 (2¼-inch) cakes.
3. Make the mixed berry spread: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the berries, sugar and vanilla, and cook until mixture is thickened, about eight minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour berry mixture into a food processor and blend until liquefied. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard seeds. In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, blend together the strained berry mixture, cream cheese and lemon zest until well combined. Chill until ready to use.
4. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, sear each cake two minutes per side or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Spread an even layer of the mixed berry spread onto each grit cake, then top with a slice of the smoked salmon, trimming salmon if necessary. Garnish with a dollop of the mixed berry spread, a few berries and a sprig of basil.