This Father’s Day, I’m reflecting in gratitude about one of my favorite people: my dad. The man can build or fix anything and throughout my life, I’ve watched him expertly dive headfirst into countless hobbies like hunting, gardening, bowling, riding motorcycles, and more. He taught me some of my favorite recipes, introduced me to some of my favorite music, and his adventurous palate has encouraged me to explore food, too – one famous childhood story involves him ordering a pizza with half anchovies and convincing me to try them. (At the time I thought they were too salty, but I love them today!) He always worked hard to provide for our family, and he spent a lot of long hours as an ironworker during colder seasons and often on weekends to make sure he had time off in the summers to go fishing.
I’m from Northeastern Wisconsin, and some of my most cherished summer memories involve waking up around three in the morning to get ready before the sun rose to hit the road and launch the boat onto Lake Michigan. At an early age he taught me how to tie a cleat hitch, how to attach fenders to the side of the boat to keep it from scraping, and let me help guide the boat from the trailer onto the water at the dock. Always his nosy sidekick, I spent countless mornings on the lake with him, watching its waters creep from a deep black, to an inky navy, to finally the rich blue-green I know best as the sun rose high in the sky. My dad would let me drive the boat out of the harbor as he meticulously set up rods and reels, letting out lines, and dropping weights to dip the spoons and flies attached to attract fish deep into the lake. We’d slowly creep along the surface, trolling for fish.
On good days we’d pull heavy king and Coho salmon and lake, brown, and – our favorite to catch – rainbow trout. Fighting such beautiful and strong fish to bring them in created an extra sense of reverence and appreciation for them as they became our incredibly fresh and local meals.
Although his preferred method of fish preparation was brining and smoking them, one of the best tricks I learned from my dad was how to grill a trout or fattier salmon fillet simply on paper. Years ago, he showed me that if I took a brown paper grocery bag and placed the fillet, skin side down, on it and cut around it, I could plop that on the grill without fear of the paper catching on fire. We’d oil the fish and season with salt and pepper, then cook covered with direct heat over a charcoal fire for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets, until the thickest part of the fillet reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Using this method yields perfectly-cooked fish, with the succulent flesh lifting easily away from the skin that stuck to the brown paper.
Two summers ago, my dad told me he sold the boat that we fished on since I was in single-digits. I was sad to hear it, but I was glad to hear it freed up his time to do more things he loved, like hanging out with his dog, working on house projects, and riding his motorcycle. Although he and I no longer pull huge shiny-scaled salmon from the lakes anymore, I can satisfy our fish fix at Seward Co-op’s Meat and Seafood Department. With their responsibly sourced seafood, I know the sea-meats harvested from Seward Co-op are as lovingly and respectfully harvested as the ones we used to get from my beloved Lake Michigan. This Father’s Day, treat your dad and try this brown-bag method for a delectable salmon fillet dinner! If fish isn’t your style, there are countless other options for an excellent and delicious Father’s Day feast.