Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bacon Crusted Salmon

Tender, smoked salmon topped with a crust of crumbled brown sugar bacon - you just can't go wrong with that, right?

This salmon is easy and crazy good and it comes from a BBQ expert and grilling authority.
The recipe for the Charred Corn Bisque was in my previous post.

About The Recipe

The first time that I ever saw this dish was at the photo shoot for Chris Lilly's second book.   Here you had a world famous food photographer, a food stylist from Southern Living, and other people who are used to stunning food.  But when they had finished shooting this particular dish and the crew started tasting it, things got quiet.  Instead of the usual chaos before the next shoot, everyone just got absorbed in eating this fantastic recipe - it was literally "shut your mouth" good.

The Komodo kamado is best in class when it comes to kamado grills, actually it's in a class by itself compared to other kamado grills.
Chris Lilly adorning his bacon crusted salmon with the ginger maple glaze during the photo shoot for his second book.  The grill is Chris' personal Komodo Kamado.  I'd say Komodo is the "best in class" of kamado grills except it's not even in the same class as most other kamados, including the brands I love and use. They have exquisite tile work, unique designs, and decked out in premium stainless hardware inside and out.  Of course, I could buy 4 Big Green Eggs for the cost of one Komodo. 

Recipe Source

The recipe can be found in Chris' book, Fire and Smoke, A Pitmaster's Secrets ($24.95).  I'm not going to post the recipe, just buy the book it's worth it - it's loaded with great recipes.  I'll just give you the basic idea and what I did differently (not that the recipe needed any changes...I'm just incapable of following directions).  

My Grilla pellet cooker makes smoking and roasting easy, simple, and makes delicious food every time.
For the bacon crust, I wanted to up the ante a bit. First, I sprinkled a LIGHT amount of brown sugar on the bacon and just on one side. I only wanted it slightly sweetened, not full on candied bacon.  Second, I smoked the bacon in my Grilla pellet grill. Grilla is the sponsor of the Memphis in May team on which I compete and I got my Grilla as a thank you for being on their team last year.

Bacon crumbles for bacon crusted salmon.
Chris Lilly used a mini-food processor to crumble his bacon.  I like to practice my knife skills so I used a santoku knife to finely mince the bacon. You can do either but the food processor makes more sense for mixing in the bacon fat and panko bread crumbs. 

Chris Lilly uses a flavorful marinade for his salmon recipe with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and more. I used a lot of the same ingredients but I cheated because I had this pair of aces up my sleeve...

Ink Soy Sauce is a gourmet flavored soy sauce that makes marinating, glazing, and saucing easy and delicious.
 A friend of mine has a client that is a start up company making gourmet soy sauces and they had a small packaging error. As a result, I got a 6 bottles (each one a different variety).  This isn't a product pitch because they haven't gone in full distribution mode yet and you can't get Ink Soy Sauce.....yet.

But when you can get Ink Soy Sauce (such a tease, right?), I recommend giving it a shot.  It's good stuff and rocked in this marinade.  It was rich, tangy, sweet, and salty.  The marinade was good and will be good with chicken too.  Mix a little (1/4 cup or so) with some maple syrup or honey and you have a nice glaze too.

Garlic Ginger Sesame Marinade

  • 1/2 cup Ginger Sesame Soy Sauce by Ink Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Garlic Sesame Soy Sauce by Ink Soy Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sushi vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3/4 cups peanut oil
Mix first four ingredients together and then slowly add the oil while whisking rapidly.  

For the fish, it was a short swim in the marinade, just long enough to make the Charred Corn Bisque and Poblano Crema.  For chicken I'd let it ride for 4 hours.

Bacon crusted salmon on the grill, the recipe is easy, quick, and stunning.
So I forgot to add bacon grease to my bacon/panko mixture and it didn't stick to the fish when I pushed it down into the crumbles.  No big deal, when I flipped it back over, I just sprinkled the leftovers on top and pressed them down a bit.  Worked fine.

Recipe for bacon crusted salmon on the grill.
If I was cooking on a kamado grill, I would have used wood planks like the book recipe does.  But I was cooking these on my Grilla pellet grill so 1) it was going to get plenty of smoke from the pellets burning and 2) the planks wouldn't smolder much if at all because there would be no direct heat under them.

The Grilla pellet cooker is simple to use for smoking, roasting, and braising.  Here's how I make salmon on a pellet cooker.
It was a quite cold and very blustery night, with snow moving in. The Grilla did well fending off the wind and cold, holding temps.  If I opened it up all the way like this, of course, I lost a good bit of heat and it took a few minutes to restore cooking temperatures.  So most of the time I just barely opened the Keep Heat Swing Lid to check on progress or to drizzle the glaze.  That kept the heat much more stable.
The Grilla pellet cooker is one of my favorite, best reviewed pellet cookers.
Here is a better shot of how the Grilla's Keep Heat Swing Lid works.  Instead of opening up, the lid access door swings right and left. The advantage of this is you can open it just a crack for checking doneness, basting, spritzing, or glazing.  

Bake biscuits on a ceramic kamado grill like the Kamado Joe, Grill Dome, or Primo.
While the salmon was cooking on the Grilla, Alexis used one of our ceramic kamado grills to make a clone recipe of Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  The set up was a plate setter (legs down), a raised rack above that, and a pizza stone on the rack.  This got the biscuits high up in the kamado so they get brown on top.  Yep, there was also a Kick Ash Basket in there, we pretty much always use those in our kamados.

My Thermoworks RT600C is quick, accurate and fits in my chef's shirt, apron, or jacket.
I cooked the salmon until the crust was golden brown and the internal temp was 130°f, about 20 minutes at 350°f.  Internal temps for fish should be between 120°f and 140°f.  Dense flesh fish like tuna and salmon can be done at 120°f..

This is a great idea for a salmon recipe that will impress your guests.
We liked the glaze so much that I reserved some of it and drizzled it over the finished fish as a sauce. Sooooo good.

Great salmon idea for ceramic kamado grills, like Big Green Egg, Vision, etc.
Served at 10pm on a snowy, cold Saturday night (we ate lunch at 4pm....don't judge) with cheddar biscuits and Charred Corn Bisque.

This is a rock solid recipe, but then again, recipes from both of Chris Lilly's books typically are. His first book was instrumental in helping me master BBQ and grilling and the second one continued that journey.  If you don't have them, you should correct that immediately :)

For more about plank grilling on a kamado grill, you can check out my post about Plank Grilled Potlatch Salmon.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I received no compensation for this post but just to be clear on a few product mentions....

  • Chris Lilly's books - I paid full price for both and I don't get affiliate sales or anything from the links I provided.  
  • Grilla Grills - I don't work for Grilla Grills but I am on their Memphis In May competition team and I got my Grilla pellet grill for helping out.
  • Ink Soy Sauce - Like I said, they are just a client of a friend of mine and I got some free samples from my friend.  Good stuff, though.  Keep an eye out for it in the next few months.
  • Kick Ash Basket - Great product.  I received one as a review piece a couple of years ago.  Since then I have bought 4 more (3 large and 1 for my Mini-Max) at full prices, putting my money where my mouth is. 
  • Komodo Kamado - No affiliation whatsoever.  Just a great kamado grill with a wonderful reputation.