The greatest challenge to steelhead fishing can be summed up in one word: torque. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve never heard the scream of a fly reel as your backing is stripped to nothing, you have a river of happiness in front of you. But I digress, for the subject of today’s column involves the second greatest challenge to steelhead fishing: how to creatively deal with the 15 pounds or more of meat that can result from a single fish.
While there are relatively few recipes written specifically for steelhead, there exist infinitely more that are wonderfully applicable to steelhead. A steelhead is just a rainbow trout that spends part of its migratory life cycle in a large body of water (whether a Great Lake or ocean). In principle, any recipe for rainbow trout should work well with steelhead. In practice, because steelhead can become so much larger than most rainbow trout and develop fattier meat, recipes for salmon are the best model to follow. Virtually any recipe for salmon works well for steelhead.
One of my favorite ways to prepare steelhead and salmon is with a simple East-Meets-West marinade. This marinade is as easy as it is interesting: it takes about 5 minutes to prepare (along with 3 hours of marinating time), and it is gourmet. As the name suggests, it involves a fusion of Asian flavors and western influences. My version is basically a French vinaigrette with soy sauce instead of vinegar.
2 large or 4 small salmon or steelhead fillets (approximately 1 lb total), skin removed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed/pressed
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, dijon, and maple syrup until smooth. Place the salmon on a deep plate (or in a sealable plastic bag) and pour the mixture on top, ensuring that all surfaces of the fish are coated. Refrigerate for 3 hours, occasionally shifting the fish so that the marinade is absorbed evenly. Prepare your grill. Fold pieces of aluminum foil so that each piece of fish fits neatly atop each piece of foil. Place the fish pieces on the grill, foil side down. Cover the grill so that heat is distributed evenly around fish. Cook until the meat feels firm to the touch. (You may cut into a piece to ensure that it is done.)
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