The jury may still be out on an official definition of Pacific Northwest cuisine, but most chefs in Oregon and Washington agree that grilled fish and shellfish have been a cornerstone of our region’s gastronomy for centuries. Traditional Native American cedar-planked salmon is certainly the Northwest’s most famous grilled seafood dish of export, but with easy access to manila clams, Olympia oysters, Dungeness crab and dozens of species of fish trolled from Pacific waters, we’ve no dearth of other fresh, briny ingredients to throw onto the fire.
Of course, literally throwing any old fish onto hot flames isn’t always the best idea. “Every fish is different,” says chef Eric Bechard, the seafood guru at Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill, who provided us with the grilled seafood menu on the following pages. “With some high-fat fish, like escolar or mackerel, you want to barely cook it. For fish like salmon and snapper, you should leave the skin on. Snapper is more delicate, so you might need to steam it in foil.” In other words grilling seafood, just like grilling meat or poultry, should be a nuanced endeavor.