Applewood Grilled Whole Copper River Sockeye Salmon Stuffed with Fennel and Vidalia Onions

I can't make up my mind on the whole Copper River salmon hoopla.  Is it really that much better than the regular Alaskan salmon?  Is it worth the price?  I am normally reluctant to pull the trigger on the purchase, but today I found it on sale for a relative steal at $6.99 per pound for fresh whole sockeye.  Sold. 

In the end, I have to say, the salmon was excellent.  Super fresh, firm, rich in flavor and moist.  Cooked to perfection by Chris and brining the salmon was the way to go to impart flavor without being overpowering.  Wonderful.

1 3.5 to 4 lb whole sockeye salmon
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 dried bay leaf, crushed in your hand
1 tsp mixed peppercorns, smashed
2 cups water

1 fennel bulb, core removed and thinly sliced
1 small vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
Debone the salmon using a sharp filet knife, keeping the filets in tact.  It is easiest to just work your knife along the bone, starting from the belly side of the fish.  Then just make short cuts pressing your knife against the bones slowly working towards the back. 
Mix together the sugar, salt, bay leaf, peppercorns and water.  I used 1/2 cup hot water to dissolve the sugar and salt and then the rest in cold water and ice cubes.  Place the salmon in a zip lock bag and pour the brine over top.  Seal and place in the refrigerator for 5-6 hours.  
Soak 2 handfuls of applewod in water for several hours.
In a medium saute pan, heat a little oil over medium high heat, add onions and saute until just softened.  Add in the fennel and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Continue to saute until fennel is softened.  Remove salmon from brine and dry on paper towels.  Make a little tray with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Place salmon in the try, lay half of the lemon slices on one side of the salmon, then place the fennel and onion mixture on top, followed by the rest of the lemon slices. Flip the other half of the salmon filet on top.  Drizzle generously with honey.
Light your charcoal and prep your grill for indirect heat cooking.  Lay the charcoal to one side of the grill and place the salmon on the other side.  Place one handful of applewood on the coals.  Maintain grill at a temperature of 325f.  Put a second handful of applewood once the first stops smoking.  Grill salmon for about 35-40 minutes or until meat comes apart easily when pierced with a knife.

For the corn:
5 ears of white corn
grana parmesan
Grill the corn drizzled with a little oil until charred.  Cut corn off the cob, place in a shallow dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grate some grana parmesan on top.  Broil for 6 minutes until parmesan is browned.  Sweet and just a bit of cheesiness with a slight smoky flavor from the grill.   Yum!

And for dessert... s'mores fireside.


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