Grilling a whole salmon and using the leftovers newsminer.com static electricity images

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Monterey Fish Market’s Paul Johnson writes in “Fish Forever” that kings stay in the ocean longer, so they have the opportunity to grow larger. Those caught off the Oregon, Washington and California coast in early spring are lean, tender and delicate and become firmer, fatty and gain a more salmon-y flavor the closer it gets to spawning season.

A whole salmon may be too big to fit into your oven, which is why roasting it on a grill makes sense. Grill and barbecue expert Steven Raichlen uses indirect heat without turning the salmon over (see the master recipe, Grill-Roasted Salmon).

If you want a shorter portion of the whole fish, Berkeley Bowl seafood manager and buyer Ted Iijima says that a roast from the front of a larger fish will have good flavor and more fat (including the fatty belly flap) than its tail end, which is leaner.

Lemon juice also plays an important role in a pasta dish that gives a nod to classic tuna noodle casserole. Fresh English peas and tarragon give this pasta an upscale style, while tomato — both fresh and a bit of tomato sauce — provides complexity.

This method — borrowed from grill and barbecue guru Steve Raichlen — uses indirect heat grilling. Be sure to measure the maximum length of fish you can cook; you might need to remove the head or part of the tail if it is too long. Remind guests to watch for bones, especially if their portion is from the front part of the fish.

Instructions: If using charcoal, prepare an indirect medium fire or preheat the outermost burners of a gas grill to medium; clean and oil the grates. Have ready a food-safe cedar plank(s) that will fit the salmon and your grill. You can also use a sturdy aluminum-wrapped (use several layers of heavy-duty foil, shiny side out) piece of cardboard just large enough to hold the fish.

Ensure the salmon is fully scaled and rinsed; pat dry. Use kitchen scissors to remove and discard the small fins, including any attached bones. Trim tail slightly, if desired. Cut deep vertical, parallel slashes about 3 inches apart on both sides of the fish, cutting down to the bone. Season inside the body cavity and both sides with salt and pepper.

If using, add wood chips to the grill. Place fish and board onto the grill grate. Brush top of fish with melted butter, cover the grill and cook to desired doneness, about 45-60 minutes or longer, depending on thickness. Baste fish with more butter every 15 minutes or so. The fish is done when it is firm and flakes when pressed with your finger. The temperature at the thickest part will be about 130-135 for medium, and the meat along the backbone should appear more opaque.

For the aioli: In a mortar and pestle (or on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife), begin mashing the garlic with a pinch of salt; continue to mash to a fairly smooth paste. Combine thoroughly with the mayonnaise; add the lemon juice to taste and preserved lemon, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve. If making the salmon cakes ahead and freezing, do not make the aioli until the day of serving.

For the cakes: Pick through the salmon; remove and discard any bones and bits of skin. Stir in 1/2 cup panko, the egg, parsley, green onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, celery and Old Bay. Add just enough mayonnaise to hold everything together. If the mixture seems too soft and loose, add a little more panko.

Place remaining panko in a shallow bowl; set aside. Scoop the mixture into 1 tablespoon portions. Working in batches, use your thumbs, forefingers and middle fingers to form small disks a little larger than a quarter-size. Dip in panko to coat on both sides. The cakes can be made ahead to this point and frozen. Freeze them on cookie sheets, then when hard transfer to airtight plastic bags or storage containers.

Heat a little oil in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-low heat; add salmon cakes and cook until brown and crisp, turning once, about 3-4 minutes total (if frozen, about 5-6 minutes). The cakes can be kept warm in a 325 oven. Garnish with a dab of aioli and parsley, if desired.