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posted: 5/21/2014 5:30 AM

Feed a crowd with a bourbon-glazed salmon fillet

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  • A bourbon-maple glaze brushed on a salmon fillet near the end of grilling time makes for a flavorful feast.

      A bourbon-maple glaze brushed on a salmon fillet near the end of grilling time makes for a flavorful feast.
    Associated Press

 
By Elizabeth Karmel
Associated Press

With grilling season upon us, we'll all be looking for new and delicious ways to feed a crowd. So I want to share one of my favorites -- a center-cut salmon fillet.

All salmon grills up wonderfully, but center-cut fillets are particularly great when feeding larger groups. Because these fillets tend to have a uniform thickness, they cook up evenly (and are harder to overcook). And that means all your guests can eat at the same time. And by all, I mean a lot. Larger fillets can feed upward of 10 people. They also happen to look pretty impressive on a platter.

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When buying salmon fillets, I opt for skin-on. The skin adds flavor and protects the delicate fish during grilling. The skin also gives you a nifty way to remove the fish from the grill with no fear of sticking. Start by having your fishmonger cut the skin from the fillet, then place the fillet back on the skin before wrapping it.

When ready to cook, you simply set the skin on the grill, then place the salmon on top of it. The salmon even could be cut into individual portions before being placed on the skin. Then just cook as directed and remove from the grill (lifting it off the skin) using a spatula.

I prefer wild salmon to farm-raised, but there are some good sustainable farm-raised options, too. The trick is to smell the fish. If it smells briny and clean, it is fresh. If it has any "fishy" or ammonia smell, do not buy it. I once bought a piece of fish that had a slight odor when raw and as I cooked it, it turned my whole backyard into a stink bomb! The moral of the story is that you should not cook fish that is past its prime.

Once you have your piece of fish, remove it from the paper and slowly and gently run your fingers up and down the flesh to feel for any small bones that have been left in it. You can remove these with fish pliers, cooking tweezers or standard drugstore tweezers. I do this a couple of times because these small bones have a tendency to hide in the dense flesh.

Because salmon is a more "meaty" fish, it can stand up to a world of flavors. My favorite glaze involves my favorite spirit! I'm a firm believer that bourbon makes everything taste better. That definitely is the case with my simple maple-bourbon glaze used in this recipe. It has only three main ingredients, so each of those ingredients must be of the best quality. The star is the bourbon, sweetened by real maple syrup and fresh orange juice, all balanced by a pinch of salt. This simple glaze brightens up the salmon, adds a complexity that makes you want a second helping, and elevates your backyard grilling to three-star status!

• Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."

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