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LOST ITALIAN: Grilled Salmon with Honey Soy Butter Sauce a luncheon favorite

Grilled salmon with honey soy butter sauce. Carrie Snyder / Forum News Service1 / 2
Grilled salmon with honey soy butter sauce. Carrie Snyder / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO -- This week we're heading to the grill with our recipe for Asian Grilled Salmon, which was a featured dish at a luncheon Tony and I co-hosted at Sarello's last week in support of the Jeremiah Program's plans to establish a residential campus in Fargo-Moorhead.

Tony and I are new to the Jeremiah Program, and were first introduced to it by my aunt and fellow co-host, Marjorie Mathison Hance, of Wayzata, Minn., who serves the organization as a Minneapolis-St. Paul community trustee. We were initially drawn to this event simply by the unique opportunity to partner with Margie, a most-beloved aunt. The compelling mission of the Jeremiah Program, "to transform families from poverty to prosperity, two generations at a time" by serving single mothers with small children, made it an even more appealing prospect.

Salmon is always a great menu choice for a group event, especially for a luncheon. It's light and healthy yet full of flavor, and has a universal appeal, even for people who may not particularly care for fish. This preparation is one of our all-time favorites and, when choosing between this dish or Chicken Piccata, this salmon was the two-to-one favorite among our guests at the event.

To grill salmon, Tony recommends starting with a grill that is hot, clean and lubricated. Lightly brush the top and bottom of each fillet with vegetable oil, and place them top-side-down onto the hot grill over direct heat.

When grilling salmon, Tony's top tip is to, "Leave the fish alone for the first two minutes!" This helps prevent the fish from sticking to the grill, which it's known to do if lifted too early (not that I've ever done that).

Tony likes to create criss-cross grill marks on his salmon, which you can make by grilling each fillet at one angle first, and then switching to the opposite angle.  You want to achieve grill marks that are a dark, golden brown, not black, which takes about three to four minutes per angle.

Since the day we opened Sarello's, people have asked us what makes our grilled salmon so delicious. Good, quality fish is always a great way to start, but we do have a secret to our success. Once the salmon has the desired grill marks, we place the fillets in a pie pan or baking dish that has about 1/8 to ¼ inch of water in the bottom, and finish cooking the fish by steaming it in a 400-degree oven, or on the grill over indirect heat with the cover down, for about five to eight minutes until done. This process helps prevent over-cooking, which will leave the salmon dry and tasteless.

The best way to check for doneness is to open up a fillet in the middle and look inside. The fish should be light pink and opaque in appearance, and moist and juicy to the touch. When undercooked, salmon will appear raw, much the way a steak does.

You could serve the salmon as is with some fresh lemon squeezed over it, but we love to give it a little Asian flair with our signature honey soy butter sauce, which you can make in the time it takes to cook the salmon.

Tony and I love to share our passion for food, service and community with you through this column each week, and we are grateful to the Jeremiah Program for serving as our recent inspiration. For more information about the program and its expansion into Fargo-Moorhead, visit them online at

Honey Soy Butter Sauce

Serves: 4 to 6


1 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay)
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled for 30 minutes
Black and white sesame seeds to garnish


Using a medium sauce pan, combine white wine, lemon juice, sesame oil, honey and soy sauce, and reduce over medium heat until a syrupy consistency is achieved, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir just to combine.

Reduce heat to low and use a whisk to stir in the butter piece by piece, until sauce appears smooth and silky. Wait until each piece of butter has dissolved before adding the next. Whisk gently throughout this process to ensure an even temperature.

For best results, serve immediately with grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, scallops, sea bass or tuna.

Important:  Cooking over low heat will help to ensure that your butter does not clarify, thus breaking your sauce.  Once a silky smooth consistency is achieved, use immediately or transfer to another container and keep in a hot water bath on stove top until ready to use.  The water should not be boiling.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead. Readers can reach them at dine//