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Grilling salmon over alder is a Pacific Northwest tradition. It’s also the raison d’être for one of Seattle’s most colorful restaurants, Ivar’s Salmon House. The Ivar in question was Ivar Haglund, a Scandinavian restaurateur who was smitten by the local Squamish Indian way of roasting salmon next to an alder fire. He made the wood-burning pit the focal point of his lakeside restaurant, one of the most popular and picturesque dining spots in Seattle—go on a sunny day and arrive early so you can get a seat on the terrace. (For more about the restaurant see page 447.) Ivar’s grilled salmon isn’t so much a recipe as a way of life.
Method: Direct grilling
4 pieces skinless salmon fillet(each about 6 ounces; preferably king or coho salmon)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
Lemon pepper
1 cup Citrus butter
You’ll also need: Alder wood chunks or logs for building a fire, or 2 cups alder chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained.
Run your fingers over the salmon fillets, feeling for bones. Using needle-nose pliers or tweezers, pull out any you find. Rinse the salmon under cold running water, then blot it dry with paper towels. Generously season each piece of fish on both sides with salt and lemon pepper.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. In the best of all possible worlds, you’d build a fire with alder logs or chunks. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, brush and generously oil the grill grate. Arrange the salmon fillets on the hot grate, placing them on a diagonal to the bars of the grate. Grill the salmon until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side, rotating the fillets a quarter turn after 11/2 minutes on each side to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks.
To test for doneness, press the fish with your finger; it should break into clean flakes. Baste the fish with some of the citrus butter as it cooks. Transfer the grilled salmon to a platter or plates and drizzle a little more citrus butter over it; serve at once.
Yield: Serves 4
Note: Lemon pepper is a popular barbecue seasoning made with dried lemon zest or lemon oil. One widely available brand is Lawry’s.