Session #3 – Sonoma County Coastal Seafood

Easy & Effortless Entertaining Series – Session #3
Sonoma County Coastal Seafood for 8

Bruce and George with Big Catch

It’s May and our beautiful Sonoma Coast is filling with fishermen (both sports and commercial) coming from near and far knowing that not only has the King Salmon Season finally arrived, the waters are also providing wonderful Halibut and Tuna and shellfish.  I find myself intrigued by the flurry of boat activity at nearby Bodega Bay from May through September.  I suppose my curiosity is natural since I didn’t come from a “fishing family.”  Darlene, Anne and I fess up to the fact that when it comes to fishing, be it getting nets and reels ready, to the catching or cleaning, we have no clue and we are very happy to keep it that way.  However when it comes to the fun of preparing a few special fresh seafood dishes paired with great wine, we are well up to the task.  This 3rd session is dedicated to our love of Sonoma County Coastal fish and entertaining.

Here in Northern California, we’re all huge fans of fabulous oysters with Hog Island Oyster Company being one of many great go-to purveyors that we frequent.  For fresh salmon and finger-licking good smoked salmon, I rely on my friend Bruce Hulick, a topnotch “smoker” who freely gives advice when it comes to preparing excellent home-smoked King Salmon.  Bruce is now and has been since the age of 10, an avid outdoorsman.  Fishing anywhere works for Bruce, but when push comes to shove, he’ll be the first to admit that nothing is sweeter than getting on a boat with his buddies and heading out into the waters off our Sonoma County Coastline to bring in those big salmon.  Bruce shared a few of his favorite pictures to showcase just how large our local “King’s” really get.  Pictured with his longtime friend and fishing aficionado George Seifert, Bruce informs that these beauties weighed over 45 lbs each and provided many terrific meals for both the Seifert and Hulick families; and yes, I’m guessing that many batches of my all time favorite Bruce’s Smoked Salmon Spread were created and shared.  With perfect timing, last week Bruce called to share that he was getting ready to smoke some recently caught Salmon and would I care to see how simple his Big Chief Electric Smoker and smoking method was?  I was happy to oblige and learned that brining is the major key to great “smoked” anything; and that you needn’t have the most elaborate or costly equipment to create great smoked treats just like those famous smokehouses.


Bruce’s Multi-purpose Brine Recipe (with ingredients easily found anywhere):

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup Yashida’s Gourmet Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1 cup Sake (Rice Wine)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. garlic salt, sea salt and pepper

Big Chief Electric Smoker

Heat water until warm but not boiling, stir in the brown sugar and keep stirring until dissolved.  Add in all the remaining ingredients and stir well.  Let the brine cool.  In a large container add 1” x 4” or 6” salmon pieces, cover with the brine making sure each piece has contact with the liquid and marinate for a minimum of 18 hours.  After marinating, drain on a rack for 3-4 hours (which allows the marinade to adhere to the fish) before loading into the smoker.  Preparing the Big Chief Electric Smoker is another easy task per Bruce, he likes to use hickory wood chips in the hot plate and tends to place his Salmon rack more center in the unit for a slower more concentrated result.  Depending on how firm you prefer your smoked salmon (or other fish), the average smoking time is 6 to 8 hours adding wood chips as necessary.


Dinner Party for 8

Our fresh seafood menu is: Appetizer course, BBQ Oysters on the half shell and Bruce Hulick’s Smoked Salmon Spread with bagel and pita chips; Salad course will be Becky Hulick (Bruce’s lovely wife and my dear friend) Smoked Salmon Quiche and Nona Leone’s Nicoise Salad (another dear friend of BRC) and for the main attraction, Grilled Salmon with Tomato Vinaigrette and Seafood Paella.  The wines chosen to complement are Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Sonoma County Chardonnay, Carneros Reserve Chardonnay and Russian River Pinot Noir.


BBQ Oysters on the Half Shell -No Recipe or difficult Prep required:  Darlene and Anne have a very easy approach to Oysters and it’s very simple; all it takes is a trip over to Hog Island Oyster Company and choose 32 beautiful shucked specimens.  They make sure to keep them on ice as they head back before our first guests arrive.  At home, be sure to keep the oysters chilled until time to barbeque.  Place the shucked oysters on a hot charcoal grill or grill pan, spooning a little melted butter over each.  When the oysters begin to bubble, add a favorite sauce (such as BBQ or mignonette) and serve warm.  The oysters and sauces will pair nicely with B.R. Cohn Rose and Sauvignon Blanc.


Bruce Hulick’s Home-Smoked Salmon Spread

  • 8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, soften
  • 3/4 lb. smoked salmon, flaked
  • 6-8 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Dash of milk if needed

Soften cream cheese in a microwave.  Stir in dash of milk to thin cream cheese if needed.  Stir in smoked salmon and scallions to blend.  Display in a small chip n’ dip dish with scattered bagel chips, pita chips and crackers.  Enjoy with B.R. Cohn Sauvignon Blanc or B.R. Cohn Rose


Becky’s Smoked Salmon Quiche (Becky Hulick’s published recipe from the San Francisco 49’er Cookbook)

  • 2 uncooked pie shells (making 2 single Quiche’s)
  • 1/2 lb. flaked, smoked salmon
  • 1/2 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 fresh large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

In a skillet or Sauté pan, sauté the mushrooms, onions and tomatoes in olive oil.  Place the salmon in the pie crusts.  Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl and blend with beater until smooth, add in the eggs one at a time.  Be sure to blend well after each egg.  Slowly add in the milk and spices.  Place onion mixture over the salmon and top with the egg mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 300 degrees F, bake an additional 40 minutes or until a knife tip or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Serve with a glass of B.R. Cohn Sonoma County Chardonnay.


Nona’s Nicoise Salad

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 fresh tuna steaks, 6 oz. each
  • 1 tbsp. B.R. Cohn Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups romaine, washed, dried and torn
  • 1 & 1/4 cups Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette (see below)
  • 8 ounces steamed green beans (cooled)
  • 2 cups marinated artichoke hearts (halved)
  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, cooked and diced
  • 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
  • 8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered


Basil-Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. B.R. Cohn Chardonnay Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup B.R. Cohn Basil-Garlic Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small bowl, whisk the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper together.  Combine the oils in a measuring cup with a spout.  Gradually pour the oil into the vinegar mixture whisking constantly to make a creamy dressing.  Yields: 1-1/4 cups.

Prepare charcoal grill or grill-pan to medium heat.  In a small bowl soak the onions in cold water to cover for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Brush tuna with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the fish about 5 minutes per side, turning once.  Set aside.  In a large bowl toss the torn romaine with a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and place on a large platter.  In the same bowl combine the green beans, artichokes, potatoes, onion, tomatoes and fennel.  Dress the vegetables with a 3/4 cup of vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper.  Place vegetables on the greens and top the salad with grilled tuna steaks and quartered hard boiled eggs.  Pass the remaining dressing at the table.  Enjoy with a glass of B.R. Cohn 2008 Carneros Reserve Chardonnay.


Grilled King Salmon with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes-cut in half
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. capers, drained
  • 4 tbsp. B.R. Cohn Cabernet Vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. B.R. Cohn Unfiltered Olive Oil
  • 8-center cut Salmon fillets with skin (each approximately 5 ounce)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tbsp. B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced parsley
  • 1 tbsp. chopped basil

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.  Brush both sides of fillets with olive oil and grill skin side down until browned, about 3 minutes.  Carefully flip salmon and grill an additional 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside.  In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/2 tsp. salt, shallots, olive oil, capers and vinegar.  In a heated skillet add the tomato mixture along with the cumin and additional oil.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring the mixture until tomatoes soften, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Pour warm vinaigrette over grilled Salmon fillets; sprinkle with parsley and basil. Best paired with B.R. Cohn 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir


Paella with Seafood, Chicken & Chorizo

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 1/2 cups Paella rice
  • 1 cup peas (warmed)
  • 1 tbsp. Smoked paprika
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 3 cups fish or chicken stock (heated)
  • 1 lb. shrimp (shelled & deveined)
  • 8 chicken thighs (skin on)
  • 2 chorizo sausages (sliced ¼ inch)
  • 3-6 ounce halibut fillets (cut into 4 pieces each)
  • 4 tbsp. B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a skillet fry the chicken thighs (as you would for fried chicken).  Remove to a plate, add the sliced chorizo to the skillet and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove to plate with chicken, cover and set aside.

In Paella pan, heat 2 tbsp. B.R. Cohn California Extra Virgin Oil over medium heat and cook the peppers for 6 minutes.  Remove peppers from pan.  In Paella pan, heat additional 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat and cook onion and garlic for 8 minutes.  Add pureed tomatoes and 1 tbsp. smoked paprika.  Cook until the liquid has evaporated and is the consistency of jam.  Add the rice and peppers to the tomatoes.  Stir and cook for one minute.  Add 3 cups heated stock, a pinch of saffron threads, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Stir and bring to a rolling simmer.  Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered without stirring.  Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes without stirring.  Turn the heat to medium high for a minute to toast the bottom of the rice.  Remove from heat.  Add warm peas and shrimp, halibut, chicken and chorizo.  Cover and place in 300 degree F. oven until ready to serve.  Present Paella in the pan at the table with lemon wedges on the side for drizzling.  Enjoy with B.R. Cohn Russian River Pinot Noir.


For members who have participated in previous Paella parties, you’ll be glad to know that we will offer another later this year.  Be sure to check out your monthly e-messages as well as check out the new Wine Club blog which appears on  Other wine club events forthcoming will be the July 23rd, Golf Tournament and Wine Club five course dinner at Oakmont Golf Club and the 25th Annual B.R. Cohn Charity Music Festival, Auction Dinner and Golf Tournament, September 23rd through the 26th.  Tickets for the concert have just gone on sale, please check or call Rebecca at 1-800-330-4064 x 129 or Darlene at 1-800-330-4064 x 133 for ticket purchases.

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