Rosemary Salmon Skewers with Mustard-Maple Glaze

published Aug 10, 2022
summer
Rosemary Salmon Skewers with Mustard-Maple Glaze Recipe

The woody herb does double duty in this recipe: it flavors the marinade and stands in for the skewers.

Serves4

Prep15 minutes

Cook6 minutes

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rosemary salmon skewers on  a plate
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where rosemary plants grow like weeds. No, really — the four-inch rosemary seedlings I planted five years ago in our side yard can now be seen from space. (Well, Google satellite, but still: We have a lot of rosemary.)

Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for ways to use as much rosemary as possible. One of my favorite uses is something I took from the Mediterranean cooking playbook: turning the sturdiest rosemary trimmings into skewers. The woody, slightly resinous flavor of fresh rosemary is a natural pairing for salmon, another Pacific Northwest treat. A quick soak in a simple, five-ingredient marinade of chopped rosemary, maple syrup, grainy mustard, soy sauce, and balsamic makes these grilled salmon skewers a favorite around our grill.

How to Use Rosemary as a Skewer

Using rosemary branches as a cooking tool might seem odd, but once stripped of their leaves (I leave a few leaves on the end for looks), they infuse their flavor right into the center of the fish. (Lamb and chicken kebabs are lovely cooked this way, too.) And because they’re a living plant with sap in the center, there’s no need to soak them as you would bamboo skewers.  

Not everyone has a rosemary farm in their side yard, but some grocery stores and farmers markets sell bunches that will suit your grilling needs. Look for sprigs that are about six to 10 inches long and are sturdy enough to support the weight of thin strips of fish. (The branch should be at least the thickness of a bamboo skewer.)

How to Thread Fish onto Rosemary Skewers

To make threading the fish onto the branches easier, cut the thickest end at an angle, creating a sharp point, then thread the salmon strips onto the branches as if sewing thread into cloth with a needle. This will secure the salmon to the rosemary and will prevent the fish from moving when you turn the skewers. Once the fish is skewered, add them to the marinade and let them hang out for 10 to 30 minutes.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You Make These Rosemary Salmon Skewers, a Few Tips

These tips are handy to have for this recipe, but are also good things to keep in mind anytime you’re grilling fish.

  • Clean and oil your grill. Before you start, make sure your grates are clean, which will help the fish release from the grill. The next step is to oil the grates. I like to roll up a clean towel, tie it with string, and pour about 1/4 cup of vegetable or safflower oil all over it. Alternatively, dampen a wad of paper towels with oil. Using tongs, rub the cold grill thoroughly with the oiled towel. 
  • Preheat the grill. Hot grates will help minimize sticking. Preheat the grill for at least 30 minutes; longer if you have time. 
  • Put the skewers on the grill — and leave them there. Arrange the skewers on the grill a few inches apart, so you have room to roll them over halfway through cooking. Put the side with the leaves still on towards the cool side of the grill. The leaves tend to catch fire if placed over the hot side, which actually creates a lovely smoky flavor, but makes them hard to move later. Do not mess with the skewers for the first three minutes. If you try to move them before the protein has set, they’ll stick. 
  • Use a spatula and tongs. After about three minutes, use a spatula to gently loosen the fish from the grill while using tongs to gently roll the skewers away from you and onto their second side. They’ll only need a few minutes more, until the fish is just cooked through. Once off the grill, drizzle them with the remaining maple marinade and get a taste of Pacific Northwest summer. It’s lovely. 

Rosemary Salmon Skewers with Mustard-Maple Glaze Recipe

The woody herb does double duty in this recipe: it flavors the marinade and stands in for the skewers.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Vegetable or safflower oil, for oiling the grill

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) side

    of salmon, skin removed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 bunch

    (8 to 10-inch long) fresh rosemary sprigs

  • 1/4 cup

    maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup

    whole-grain mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    balsamic or red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    soy sauce or tamari

Instructions

  1. Heat an outdoor grill for two-zone, medium-high heat cooking. Meanwhile, prepare the skewers.

  2. Remove any pin bones from 1 (1 1/2-pound) skinless side of salmon. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. Pick the leaves from 1 bunch fresh rosemary sprigs, leaving an inch of leaves on the tip, until you have a sprig for each piece of salmon. Cut the thick end of each rosemary branch on an angle to create a point. Thread the salmon strips onto the skewers lengthwise, weaving the salmon in and out onto the rosemary branch a few times for each strip of salmon. Place the skewers on a rimmed baking sheet.

  4. Finely chop 1 tablespoon of the picked rosemary leaves; reserve the remaining rosemary for another use. Place the chopped rosemary, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

  5. Pour half over the salmon skewers and flip the skewers to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes.

  6. When the grill is ready, scrape the grates clean if needed. Oil the grill grates with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

  7. Grilling in batches if needed, place the salmon skewers on the hot side of the grill with a few inches of space between them and the top of the skewers (where the leaves are) over the cool side of the grill so they don’t burn. Grill uncovered and undisturbed until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Using tongs and a large flat spatula to slide under the salmon to loosen it, gently roll the skewers over and continue to grill uncovered until the fish is just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes more.

  8. Carefully transfer the skewers from the grill with the spatula and tongs to a large platter. Drizzle with the remaining maple syrup mixture.

Recipe Notes

Tip: To skin a salmon fillet, place the fillet skin side down on a cutting board with the long side of the fillet facing you. Cut into the flesh about 1/2-inch from the left end of the fillet, stopping when you get to the skin. Now place a sharp, flexible knife (such as a carving knife), parallel to the cutting board between the flesh and skin. Cut the flesh away from the skin using a sawing motion, grasping the just-freed end of skin and pulling it gently to create tension. The skin should come off in one piece, but if it doesn’t, flip the fillet over and trim any patches of skin away with a knife. It’s not hard, but it is a skill that improves with practice!

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.