Sweet and Spicy BBQ Salmon/Sam Adams Northeast IPA/Earthless “Black Heaven”
Craving good BBQ and something somewhat health conscious is usually a mutually exclusive proposition. When you’re elbows deep in ribs, brisket, mac & cheese and corn bread, the calorie counter is usually turned off for the day (or the week for that matter). Tonight though, we turned to War Pigs, our Chicago-style Pork & Rib Rub, to give salmon steaks a truly tasty and authentic BBQ makeover. The dry-rubbed salmon also gets an extra boost of flavor from a maple chipotle glaze that gets grilled onto the fish. We kept the sides inline for our theme of the night; vinegary sautéed spinach and grilled corn on the cob to keep that “healthy” down home BBQ thing going. For the beer we went with a surprising choice, well at least for us; Sam Adams is a brewery that we don’t feature very much but decided to go with their New England IPAs for the pairing tonight. Read below for more on how this unlikely beverage choice came to be. On the stereo, we had Earthless’ “Black Heaven,” nice and loud, basking in the heavy retro groove of this incredible band.
Sweet and Spicy BBQ Salmon – This recipe is super simple so to drag it out a bit, we’re going to walk you through our sides too (We know, finally someone is going to show slide by slide instructions on how to sauté spinach… yes!”). We’ll start with the corn and when it comes to grilling this midwestern staple, there are two very opinionated and strong-willed camps. You have those who we’ll call the “Huskers”. This group proclaims the only way to grill corn is to soak the whole ear in water then grill them while still inside the husk. This group is wrong, they might as well just cook on the stovetop. The other camp actually grills the CORN. Yes, by removing the husks first and placing the naked cobs over flame you achieve both the doneness required and the taste of something that is actually grilled. Once the kernels turn form pale yellow to shiny yellow and char in spots, the corn is done.
Place the corn in a foil pan and slather with butter until it melts then cover and keep warm.
Ok, here it comes. The part you’ve all been waiting for, when we take you behind the scenes to show you how spinach goes from crisp fresh leaves to soft and tender all while reducing in size by 400%! We take a little oil and warm it in a cast iron skillet on the grill. Once the oil is heated we add a pound of spinach to the pan that, at first, will make the pan look way too outsized for its new vegetable house guest.
Here’s where the magic happens. We slowly stir the spinach from the bottom of the pan to the top of the pan and with each passing stir the spinach wilts more and more until those 16oz resembles about a large heaping tablespoon of greens, to which we stir in a splash of rice wine vinegar.
Ok, all kidding aside now. We’re starting on the salmon which is serious business. We season up a couple large salmon filets with our War Pigs seasoning.
The salmon goes skin side down over direct heat for about 3-5 minutes or when the skins starts to smoke. This is one instance where you want something to burn on the grill, once the skin is charred, flip the fish and carefully scrape the skin off the filet.
Now we’re ready to glaze and finish cooking these babies. The glaze is simply 1 chipotle pepper and 1/2 cup of pure maple syrup. Blend until smooth.
Flip the fish back over and start to apply the glaze liberally.
Flip the salmon over so the glaze side goes over direct heat in order to get the glaze caramelized, then repeat the glazing process on the other side.
That’s all folks, now it’s just a matter of plating everything up. We start with the wilted spinach then carefully lay a salmon filet on top followed by two half ears of corn stacked up next to the fish. This had everything we were craving without all the guilt, absolutely delicious.
Sam Adams North East IPA – So more on the story of how we came to try this beer from a brewery that, although we respect, has never been one of our favorites. We were at Dave and Busters with the kids of all places and the beer menu said “ask your server about our local craft beer”. So we did and the response was “yes, yes we do! We’ve got Sam Adams!”. If local means less than 2000 miles away then maybe, but we digress. Expecting it to be the Boston Ale, we were surprised to hear it was their New England IPA. We liked it so much we picked up a four pack to pair up with this dinner. Out of the can, the beer was murky and yellow like creamed corn with a juicy sweet aroma. The flavor, while not nearly as fresh or tasty as the draught variety, still had the malty/hop balance with the kicked up sweetness the style is known for. It’s actually a really good beer and made for an excellent accompaniment to the grilled salmon.
Earthless “Black Heaven” – Man, you want to talk about one of the stalwarts of the genre; Earthless has been kicking out the jams for over a decade leading up this year’s jaw-dropping “Black Heaven”. The band has gone from their mostly instrumental jam beginnings to a super tight retro rock powerhouse that still grooves just about as hard as anyone in the business. “Black Heaven” takes a deep dive into southern rock territory (“Gifted by the Wind”) to the UFO-style of 70s hard rock (“Electric Flame”) to the bluesy, Zeppelin-y instrumental jam of the title track and concludes with the album’s best track “Sudden End”; a slowed down ripper of a tune that features some incredible guitar work and vocals that resemble a young Ronnie Van Zant, it’s almost eerie. You can’t go wrong with any Earthless album, but “Black Heaven” may very well be our favorite.