Apple-smoked Salmon with Orange Mayonnaise

It’s salmon season in San Francisco and this year the catch has been wonderful. The markets are full of fresh richly colored wild salmon from the surrounding waters.
San Francisco has a new farmer’s market at the Ferry Building downtown and it is a remarkable food shopping experience. Last Saturday we purchased a whole freshly caught wild salmon, cut it into steaks and made this recipe from our book Seafood on the Grill.

We love salmon first of all for its rich, sweet taste, and almost as much for its deep color. This grill menu is a delightful mix of colors and flavors: The salmon is grilled over apple-wood chips, which gives it a subtle, fruity perfume, and is served topped with a pale orange mayonnaise. The apples, beets, and sweet potatoes intensify in color and taste on the grill, and combine beautifully with the salmon. Serve with a watercress salad and cold Sauvignon Blanc.

Serves 4
Orange Mayonnaise
1 navel orange
1 egg at room temperature
1 cup mild olive oil or canola oil at room temperature
Salt to taste
Orange flower water or orange essence to taste (optional)

1-1/2 to 2 pounds salmon steaks or fillets with skin

Juice of 1/2 orange, reserved from orange mayonnaise, above
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 cup apple-wood chips
1 large sweet potato
2 beets
2 apples
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Tarragon or watercress sprigs for garnish

Light a charcoal fire in an open grill. While the coals are heating, prepare the mayonnaise: With a vegetable brush, scrub the skin of the orange under running water. Grate the zest of the orange using the small shredding holes of a 6-sided grater. Cut the orange in half and juice it. Break the egg into a blender and, with the motor running, pour the oil as slowly as possible, a few drops at a time, through the open hole in the blender lid. After pouring in about half of the oil, the mixture will have emulsified. Increase the rate of flow to a very thin stream, continuing to blend until all of the oil has been added. Blend in the zest and half of the orange juice, reserving the rest for the marinade. Transfer the mayonnaise to a bowl and add salt to taste; add orange flower water or orange essence to taste, if you like. Cover and place in the refrigerator until serving (this will help it to thicken).

Place the salmon in one layer in a shallow non-aluminum container. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the marinade and pour it over the salmon. Let marinate at room temperature until the coals are hot, about 30 minutes, turning the salmon once or twice. Place the apple-wood chips in water to cover and let them soak until it is time to grill, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the unpeeled beets and sweet potato into 1/4-inch-thick crosswise slices. Place them in separate bowls. Cut the unpeeled apples into quarters and cut a V into the center of each quarter to remove the core. Place the apples in a bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice, and pour a third of this mixture over each bowl of vegetables and fruit. Using your hands, coat the apples, sweet potatoes, and lastly, the beets evenly with the oil and lemon juice mixture; set aside.

When the coals are hot, drain the apple-wood chips well and sprinkle them evenly over the coals. Place the apples, sweet potatoes, and beets on the cooking rack, using a grilling grid or grill basket, if you have either. Cook the fruit and vegetables for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until they are crisp-tender. Transfer the fruit and vegetables to a plate.

Scrub the hot cooking rack with a grill brush to make sure it is clean and brush or spray the rack with oil. Place the salmon flesh-side down over the hot coals and cook for 3 minutes; baste, turn, and cook for another 3 minutes, or until the outside is browned and the inside is barely translucent in the center (cook 1 or 2 minutes longer if you want the salmon opaque throughout). Transfer the salmon to each of 4 hot serving plates. Surround the salmon with the beets, sweet potatoes, and apples; top with a dollop of mayonnaise; and garnish with tarragon or watercress.

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