The Pacific Northwest is home to a number of precious culinary gems – some classic, like wild Alaskan seafood, Washington berries and apples, and Oregon cheeses and hazelnuts, and others more recently polished to take their places in the repertoires of cooks – Oregon pinot noir, for one, and the only certified organic saké brewed in the US. Local chefs have been combining these flavors for years to excellent effect, but the simple tricks behind Northwest flavors have yet to make their way into the mainstream. For those for whom saké is a hot, acrid bit of exotica choked down as a gesture to tradition at late-night sushi bars, here is a revelation: the good stuff is smooth, complex, easily as varied as wine, and is best enjoyed chilled. It also makes a great cocktail, and can be used for a number of different cooking purposes. This simple marinade combines some of the more interesting flavors in Northwest cuisine, and works great with everything from wild salmon steaks and halibut to scallops or shrimp skewers.

You will need:

  • 1 – 2 lbs. wild Alaskan seafood: salmon, halibut, rockfish, scallops, shrimp – you choose
  • 1 cup soy sauce (lighter is better in this case, to reduce sodium and allow other flavors predominance – good quality soy sauce is worth the small price difference)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup saké – something on the sweeter end of the spectrum; use filtered saké – the cloudiness of nigori styles is less desirable for this application, (although it doesn’t hurt to experiment – there are locally-made flavored sakés that add an interesting dimension to this recipe, like “coconut lemongrass”)
  • 3 or 4 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, and minced
  • 1 inch peeled fresh ginger, shredded or finely sliced
  • a handful of coarsely chopped cilantro
  • juice of 2 limes
  • optional: 1/2 cup Thai sweet chili sauce, 3 T hot sauce (Sriracha, Tabasco, Habanero), ground cumin or anise, cracked black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Rinse the fish well under cold running water, then nestle the fish into the marinade, making sure the flesh is entirely covered. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours, turning the fish occasionally, then remove from marinade and bake or grill as desired. If you use an outdoor grill, reserve part of the marinade to pour over the fish as it cooks – be prepared for flames, but the flavor will be outstanding.

Original photo found here.

Saké Seafood Marinade

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