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After our Arctic morning on the river, contending with Mother Nature’s bad, bad mood, we had lunch on the shore.

This kind of shore lunch requires some acrobatics. It’s also a time to keep things really, really simple. Simple.

Keep things simple. Okay?


The first thing you’ll need is a sharp knife. Which I didn’t have.

The second thing you’ll need is a flat surface on which to fillet your fish. Which I didn’t really have. I had a cutting board, but what you can’t tell is that I was sitting on a slope on the rocks. It kept things interesting…

What we did have though were some pliers. Which helped get out some of the pin bones.

I’d also recommend some salt and pepper and good olive oil… and guess what else I’d recommend… you should know this by now…

A skillet.

Or… if you’re feeling modern, a grill would work too. But I suggest you go Native, and get out some coals and a skillet and cook the fish over radiant heat. That’s the road to a perfect piece of fish.

Somehow, after a game of twister, I managed to end up with some lovely fillets.

Then a man named George came over.

I liked his outfit. Especially the medley of feathers attached to his lapel.

He was on the rocks fishing with his lab and had lots of stories to tell. They were a nice distraction as I negotiated with the fish fillet.

At last, the fish was portioned. Can you see the difference between the boy and girl? The boy has the lighter flesh because he was in the fresh water for longer.

Low heat is your friend when it comes to cooking fish. High heat is your enemy. Especially with oily fish because the oil will break when the heat is high, and that’s when it becomes smelly and bitter.

Here’s something else to know. I have to credit Jon Rowley for this lesson. You’ll read all about him in my book this fall, but to put it simply, he changed the way America eats seafood.

See how the fillet is curled on the grill? This fish is actually too fresh. According to his “Rigor Mortis Theory,” the best tasting fish is one that has gone through rigor mortis and comes out of it before it is eaten. When it curls like that, it is actually going through rigor mortis in the pan, which causes the skin and flesh to contract, which tears the cell walls, and often causes that “white goo” that you see coming out of cooked fish. That’s albumen. A sign that the fish is too fresh, or hasn’t been handled properly on its way to the plate.

Nevertheless, we pushed forward with the shore lunch, because too fresh fish, is always better than cheetos for lunch.

Plus I took the leftovers home and ate them a few days later, when they were even better.

If you want to hear more about “Shore Lunch,” I’m going to be on the radio again tomorrow chatting with Joel Shangle of the #1 outdoor radio show, Northwest Wild County. All the tune-in details are here: SPORTSRADIO 950 KJR. I’ll be on at 7:30am PST, so if you’re not on the West Coast, you can always tune in via the pod cast.

Happy Friday!

“Perfect Steelhead or Salmon”

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Servings: 1 perfect portion


  • 1 inch thick portioned skin-on fillet
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 200° F.
  • Heat a dry skillet until quite hot.
  • Brush both sides of the meat with good olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Place the fish in the dry skillet, (flesh side down if using a fillet), until meat is bronzed, 1-2 minutes. Then turn it over and do the same to the other side.
  • Place the skillet in the 200° F oven. Cook for about 10 minutes more, until tender and juicy but cooked through.


  • Tovar Cerulli
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    That's a colorful and tasty-looking lunch, Georgia. And I like the creative use of unusual cooking implements. When we're hungry, we do what we have to!

  • Grandma
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I'm impressed!

  • Jon D
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Nice looking cook! Everything tastes better cooked outside in the fresh air. Thanks for sharing!

  • Chip
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Unfreakingbelievable. I'm becoming a food nerd keeping up with you, love it!

    • Georgia
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      Haha, I love making people food nerds. Welcome to the club Chip.

  • Mike S.
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Interesting topic about rigor mortis. I've heard this concept applies to deer and other mammals as well. When I asked a seasoned hunter he mocked me, probably because he didn't know the answer. I always wondered what that white stuff was when we cooked fresh caught fish. I've had fresh ahi off Cabo before – if you eat it minutes after you catch it, rigor mortis can't set in!

    • Georgia
      Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      Yea, good point Mike. This applies to game as well… deer for example need a lot of hang time to tenderize so the collagen breaks down.

  • HankShaw
    Posted June 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Yep, everything needs to go through rigor — although you can cheat with fish. If you cook the fish within minutes of its death, it will be just as good if not better than if you wait until after rigor. This is the theory behind the famous French "blue trout" dish. As for the white goo, you won't get it if your heat is low enough. It'll happen even on a well-aged fish if you kick the spurs to it… My $0.02. h.

  • deana
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Really lovely post, the photos are fabulous and I loved the story of the fish… nice to find your blog!

    • Post Author
      Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:21 am

      Thanks for stopping by Deana!

  • Abigail
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Perfect way to write a recipe.
    Pictures, and a slightly underendearing perspective, pointed at the audience.

    Question: What is the perfect time then, to let the rigor mortis set in before cooking?
    I always thought: Rubbish, no such thing as a 'too fresh' fish.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Abigail!
      I fish goes into rigor mortis very shortly after it dies. If you're really quick you can fillet it and eat it before it goes into rigor but that is really hard to do. Otherwise it is best to wait until it is no longer stiff, meaning it has come out for rigor mortis. It should also have that aspic slime on its scales and when buying in a store you want to make sure most of the scales are in tact. That tells you how it was treated on the boat and all the way to the market. Hope this helps! You can read more of Jon Rowley's thoughts in my book "Food Heroes" this fall… he's a "fish missionary."

  • budafist
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Beautiful and informative. Never knew you could have too fresh fish either. What if you eat it raw? Will it go rigor mortis in your mouth?

    • Post Author
      Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:26 pm

      Hehe… rigor mortis is just the stiffening of the body, so it's not going to happen in your mouth. I wouldn't recommend eating this kind of fish raw.

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