Vines & Vittles

Salmon Italiano: great with vino rosso or bianco

If you live in or around Charleston and you enjoy fresh seafood, I know you’ve shopped at Joe’s Fish Market (304-342-7827) on the corner of  Brooks and Quarrier Streets. Two brothers – Joe and Robin Harmon- have been providing our area with fresh treats from the sea for decades.

I venture into Joe’s at least once a week when I’m “jonesing” for salmon. I’m not a fan of poaching the fish, but I really enjoy grilling or smoking salmon, and basting it with various concoctions. I actually do a riff on Joe’s hot smoked salmon, but I have to admit that it’s hard to beat the original version that Robin prepares each week on his smoker out behind the market.

At Joes, the hot smoked salmon is brined in water, salt, brown sugar and garlic for a few hours and then smoked for up to an hour over apple wood. They also use farm-raised salmon and recommend choosing it rather than wild caught salmon (like King, Coho, Sockeye, etc.) which tends to dry out if you’re not careful. Try a slab of Joe’s hot smoked salmon and maybe you’ll be inspired, like I was, to experiment with different methods of preparing this exceptionally versatile fish.


Today, I’m going to share a salmon recipe that I’ve created which involves using a brine, a dry rub and then charcoal grilling the fish to delicious perfection. It’s a little time consuming, but really easy and definitely worth the effort. This recipe uses a charcoal, but you can use a gas grill by cooking the fish indirectly and using a smoke box.

And, of course, I’m recommending wines that will enhance your dining experience. In this case, you may select either a full-bodied white wine or medium-bodied red to pair with the dish. See my suggestions below.



Salmon Italiano

One salmon filet with skin on (usually 2 to 3 lbs)
One-half bottle of dry white wine (sip the rest while grilling)
Three quarts of cold water
One cup each of Kosher salt and light brown sugar
Four garlic cloves minced
One-half teaspoon each of crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano
One teaspoon each of fennel seed and coarsely ground black pepper
Two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
One cup of apple wood chips

How To
Make a brine (in large pot) of the salt, sugar, water, wine and half the garlic
Stir and dissolve the brine ingredients and pour into a gallon baggie
Place salmon filet in brine making sure the liquid covers the fish
Put baggie into the pot and place in refrigerator for two to three hours
Soak wood chips in warm water for same amount of time
Remove salmon from brine and pat dry
Sauté the fennel seed in a dry pan until slightly toasted
Grind in a food mill (or use a large knife) to crush the fennel seeds
Rub olive oil all over fish and place on aluminum foil in a long oven pan
Rub the garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, oregano and fennel evenly onto filet
Make a charcoal fire and divide coals evenly on either side of the grill
Drain wood chips and place in and on charcoal fire
Place pan with salmon between the two piles of charcoal and put lid on grill
Keep grill vents wide open on top and bottom of the grill
Grill salmon for 15 minutes

Salmon is done when slightly firm to the touch

Wine Recommendations:

2014 Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay ($30) This is a rich, yet perfectly balanced, chardonnay that has hints of vanilla on the nose and a creamy mouth feel with ripe apple flavors and refreshing acidity that marries well with the salmon.

2013 Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino ($27) Fruit forward, rich and medium-bodied sangiovese (Baby Brunello) that is full of dark cherry flavors with just a hint of oak on the finish. Great accompaniment to the Salmon Italiano.