Yuzu, a lemon-lime fruit from Japan, is key to making a Japanese ponzu sauce and both have been a hit in U.S. Chef-landia for good reason. It has great balance and both supports and cuts through any fatty fish. These ingredients, once very exotic here, are now widely available at retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, specialty and Asian markets and online, making this delicious recipe accessible to everyone. —tw
dark soy sauce
yuzu juice or lemon juice
togarashi (Japanese hot pepper mix)
cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded
inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
ground white pepper
stalks lemongrass, trimmed and whacked with the side of a knife
Combine the dark soy sauce, ponzu, mirin, sesame oil, yuzu, togarashi, garlic, ginger, white pepper, and lemongrass in a resealable plastic bag and squish to blend. Place the salmon into it, seal and tilt the bag carefully, working it gently to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate for at 45 minutes to 1 hour.
When you are ready to grill the salmon, heat gas grill over medium-high heat (see Kitchen Tips), until it is it is very hot when you hold your hand over it. (If you are an expert griller, you know this is when it is almost smoking.) Drizzle a little canola oil onto a paper towel or kitchen towel and using tongs, wipe the oil on the hot grill grates or pan.
With tongs, remove the salmon from the marinade and place it on the grill, skin side down. Discard the marinade (see Kitchen Tips). Cook for 4 minutes and reduce the heat to medium. Turn with tongs or a spatula and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the fish and the desired degree of doneness. Note that the fish will continue cooking for a minute or so after you remove it from the grill so factor that into your timing.
Kitchen tip: Lemongrass adds a wonderful hint of lemony flavor and fragrance to your cooking, but you need to peel off and discard the tough outer layers in order to use it. Then cut off the bulb at the root end. Cut the softer white-yellow-green stalk that remains as your recipe directs. You can cut it into chunks or slice in smaller slices to reveal a purplish blush at the interior (slicing on a diagonal works well). Or if you don’t need neat slices, you can place the stalk on a work surface and whack it with the side of a large chef’s knife to crush it and chop it a little more if need be. If you are slicing it and the thin top section becomes too hard to work with, whack it and chop it up.
Kitchen tip: To remove needle-like pin bones from a fillet of fish such as trout, salmon or arctic char, place the fillet on a work surface. Run your finger along the the top (not the underbelly or the tail) and you will feel the tiny bones, no bigger than a pin. With fish tweezers or tongs, grasp one pin bone firmly and pull toward the head end of the fish; don’t pull toward the tail because the bones don’t face that way and they will snap in half. Gently but firmly pull out the bones one by one. If one does happen to snap, feel for the piece you left behind and with your finger and pull it out.