Friday, April 9, 2010

Banks of the Willow

I grew up on the banks of the Willow River. Summers were spent at my family’s one room cabin. With no power or water, we bathed in Rainbow Lake and caught our dinner in the river.

We lounged in the morning, water-skied at lunch, salmon fished in the afternoon, grilled our catch as the sun went down, and played Uno by the light of a propane lantern until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. These were thing my parents loved to do. So my sister and I grew up doing them too.

Now that I am grown with kids of my own, I sometimes hear myself saying, “I would love to go fishing but I can’t with the kids,” or “I can’t wait for my kids to get older so we can go hiking.”

However, if my parents had seen me as an obstacle to their outdoor ambitions, I might never have had all the wonderful memories I now treasure.

Motivated by these moments, I’ve found myself dawning hip-waders and a snuggly stuffed with a 2-month-old baby. Yes, fishing is a lot more complicated with a newborn. Yes, I felt even more proud holding my fish when I was holding my baby at the same time.

One of my favorite memories came when I hiked over a mile on a muddy, overgrown trail through thorny, wild rose bushes with my Gortex jacket draped over an infant carseat. Filled with my behemoth baby, that carseat was heavy and I needed a break. While my family hiked to a more remote mouth of the Willow, I sat down to watch a couple guys fish a larger mouth.

I could see these two were fishing just beyond a nice hole. So I placed my son, sleeping in his carseat, on the beach with the jacket over him as protection from the bird sized mosquito. I waded out into the river. Coming just below the two fishermen, I baited my hook and chucked it into the river.

Looking like they had just stepped out of a Cabela’s catalog, the men looked at me, exchanged glances between themselves, and chuckled loud enough for me to hear.

However, in a few casts, they were reeling in as I played my Coho into the bank. As their jaws hung open, I clobbered my salmon with a nearby rock, shoved
my fingers through its gills, scooped up my son, and hiked off into the woods.

Boy did I feel good! Was it the fish? A little. Was it the combo of fish and infant? Oh yeah! Instead of a limitation, my baby made the moment. And even though my kids may not remember these moments, they’re not going to remember spending summers at a fenced in play area either. Instead, they’ll look back on summers with our family in the great wide-open.

Great at home, in the woods, or on a riverbank. The foil pockets not only keep salmon moist and tender, but also make clean-up a breeze and cooking method versatile – campfire, grill, or oven. Have fun with this recipe, adjusting the spices to fit your fire tolerance or substitute halibut, tilapia, swordfish, etc.

1 Salmon Fillet (Sizes will very – this recipe uses a 12 inch fillet)
2 small onions, roughly chopped
1 ½ sliced lemons
½ lemon, 4 wedged for garnish
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper (ground red pepper), more if you like lots of heat

1. Trim all skin and gray fat off salmon (fat and skin imparts a strong fishy flavor) and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Gently rub the most attractive side with chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cut into (women’s) hand-sized servings (about 4 for a medium fillet) 2 – 3 inches wide.

2. Cut 4 pieces of tinfoil about 12 to 14 inches long each. Drizzle one end with about 1 tsp olive oil and spread till a little larger than one serving of salmon. Top with a bed of onion and lemon. Place one serving of salmon, seasoned side up, on bed of onion and lemon. Drizzle with another tsp olive oil. Fold foil over salmon, crimp the edges leaving space around and above salmon. Repeat with all four pieces

3.Place on grill over campfire, or on backyard or portable grill. If using the oven, pre-heat to 375 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes. Adjust cooking time depending on thickness of salmon and the heat of campfire or grill.

4.Serve in foil with a dishcloth or on plate with a wedge of fresh lemon. Enjoy!

Serves 4

*If you are taking this recipe camping, chop onions and lemons and place in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag with olive oil. Place salmon into the bag with onions mixture; turn around gently to coat salmon with oil. Place salmon into another bag with pre-measured spices, mix to coat. Pick up recipe at Step 2 using the oil, lemon, and onions from the resealable bag.