As a food blogger, I often feel a lot of (mostly self-applied) pressure to create recipes that are overly produced and done up. There is a lot of reward for visually impressive recipes with long, drawn-out ingredient lists and eye catching headlines. Or perhaps, I just assume there is because of how much of that I see floating around Pinterest.
To be honest, the tendency to overly “gourmet-ize” everything is an aspect of food media that I have always been uncomfortable with. I have a formal education as an engineer, so perhaps it is that my technical and artistic sides are forever fighting in every recipe I write.
The notebook of recipes I have built over time skews heavily utilitarian and practical. That has a lot to do with how they were born — from struggle. I think it is a struggle a lot of you probably are familiar with, the competing interests of nutrition, expense, deliciousness, and time management.
It’s the balance we all fight for as parents and spouses, and as the one who “wears the apron” at home. How do you put nutritious, delicious food on the table for everyone while meeting often unfair expectations we have of ourselves?
I know we all compare ourselves to Pinterest or the magazines we see when we check out at the supermarket. Sites of “Pinterest fails” were born of a desire to relieve the tension created by those expectations. Laughing at the silliness of it all can be therapeutic.
Even with all that in mind, I still often find myself headed in that direction. It’s easy to try to solve problems by making things more complex. It’s much harder to stop yourself and backtrack towards simplicity, even if you know that’s usually the right thing to do.
So, that sometimes leads me to dishes like this one, whose pure simplicity can make me feel like I am cheating you. Its elegance comes from the fact that not only is there just one ingredient besides the fish, but it is the *right* one.
The right one, in this case, is a Mexican seasoning called Tajin. The ingredient list of Tajin itself is blissfully short. Chile peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime juice. Savory, salty, tart. Placed against the slight sweetness of sockeye salmon and smoke roasted to doneness, it tastes like it should be a old classic.
Maybe it is the affinity of the lime juice for the fish. Or the familiarity of the roasted taste the chile powder in the Tajin takes on from a hot smoke on the grill? Every time I make it, I spend a little time considering whether it is possible I had it somewhere before I made it myself. It seems too perfect to not already be commonplace.
Note: Tajin is available at virtually every supermarket (including Costco) where I live, but I also live an hour from the Mexican border. So, I may have a skewed perspective on its general availability. If it is not stocked where you live, it is available (as always) on Amazon.com here (affiliate).
Tajin Smoke Roasted Sockeye Salmon
- sockeye salmon filet
- 1 bottle Tajin seasoning
- smoking wood (I like maple, alder, or any fruit wood here.)
Light your charcoal and set your grill up for indirect cooking. This means all the coals banked to one side, and the fish on the other. Use a hotter fire than you typically do, it will help the seasoning toast by the time the fish is done.
Position the top vent of your grill over top of the meat and make sure it is wide open. Also make sure your intake vent is wide open, also. We want to make sure we do not choke the fire off. This recipe requires a hotter smoke than we would even want for meat.
Place your smoking wood on the hot coals and place the fish on the cool side of the grill.
Cook the meat over indirect heat until it is done, or about 145 degrees. Having an instant read thermometer obviously helps a lot here.
Getting flaky, delicate fish to not stick on the grill is typically a losing battle and one I surrendered on a long time ago. I typically lay the fish on a piece of aluminum foil folded to be slightly larger than the filet that doubles as a sling for moving the fish on to and off of the grill.