Tips for grilling the perfect fish

Salmon Glazed with Belgian Cherry Beer
Serves 4
Advance preparation: 1 to 2 hours for marinating the salmon

You've probably heard of Belgium's legendary cherry beer, kriek lambic, even if you've never tried it. (And if you've never tasted it, run, don't walk, to buy some-its complex flavor can hold its own against wine.)

What you may not realize is how food and grill-friendly this tart, dry ale brewed with sour morello cherries really is. This dish was inspired by my Belgian grill master friend, Peter De Clercq, and it will give you a new perspective on teriyaki.

Kriek lambic is becoming more and more widely available and two good brands include Boon and Lindemans. In recent years, several American breweries, for example, the New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin, and Samuel Adams, in Boston, have begun brewing cherry beer.

As for the fish, the robust texture and flavor of wild salmon over farmed will go perfectly.


  • 1 bottle (12 ounces; about 1½ cups) kriek lambic beer
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin (sweet rice wine), sake, or cream sherry
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (add 2 more tablespoons if using sake instead of mirin)
  • 3 strips orange or tangerine zest (each ½ inch wide by 2 inches long; remove them with a vegetable peeler)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 1 slice (¼ inch thick) fresh ginger, crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 1 scallion, trimmed, white part crushed with the side of a cleaver, green parts
  • Finely chopped for garnish
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets (each 6 to 8 ounces), preferably wild, or 4 salmon steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 6 to 8 ounces)
  1. Place the kriek lambic, soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, orange zest, garlic, ginger, and scallion white in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring the marinade to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

  2. Let the marinade boil until syrupy (like maple syrup) and reduced by about one third, 6 to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

  3. Remove the pan from the heat and let the marinade cool to room temperature (you can speed up the cooling by placing the pan in a bowl of ice).

  4. Run your fingers over the salmon fillets, feeling for bones. Remove any you find with needle-nose pliers or tweezers. Arrange the salmon in a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold it in a single layer.

  5. Pour the cooled marinade over the salmon and let it marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 to 2 hours.

  6. Drain the fish from the marinade. Pass the marinade through a strainer into a saucepan and discard the solids.

  7. Bring the marinade to a boil over high heat and let it boil until reduced to a glaze (it should be the consistency of barbecue sauce), about 5 minutes, then set it aside.

  8. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high.

  9. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the fish fillets on the hot grate at a diagonal to the bars. Grill the salmon until nicely browned on the outside and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium. When done, the salmon will break into firm flakes when pressed with a finger.

  10. If desired, give each piece of salmon a quarter turn on each side after 1A to 2 minutes to create a handsome crosshatch of grill marks. Start basting the fish with the reduced marinade after 2 minutes, basting both sides.

  11. Alternatively, you can grill the salmon in a well-oiled fish basket, which is a great way to keep the fish from sticking to the grill grate. There's no need to create crosshatch marks if you use a grill basket.

  12. Transfer the grilled salmon to a platter or plates. Spoon any remaining marinade on top. Sprinkle the scallion greens over the salmon and serve at once.

About Nikki Boyles-Frias:

Chef Nikki Boyles-Frias joined Sur La Table in September of 2006 and is responsible for managing the cooking class program, creating recipes, setting curriculum and teaching classes in Sur La Table's Los Gatos, California store.

Boyles-Frias is the third-generation in her family to be called to the culinary arts and practically grew up in both commercial and home kitchens.

Her parents have been operating DNL Catering since 1989 and at a very young age she began learning about the "front and back of the house".

She attended culinary school at Diablo Valley College, Baking and Pastry Arts and became the Executive Chef at DNL Catering and Wedding Cake Designer for 13 years and was a caterer for CoolEatz Cafe for Jesse Cool.

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23 University Avenue
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Phone: 408-395-6946

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