Shirley is a fantastic cook - and always makes my hubs favorite dishes whenever we get together. I don't think there is a thing she can't cook (and she's no bigger than a bird - don't ask me how!) but because they are both so special to us, we wanted to make their favorites on their birthday.
Darby wanted ribs and although she wouldn't pinpoint anything specific, we knew Shirley loves my hubs smoked salmon.
Secret #1: soak the salmon in a brine for at least 4 hours and rinse WELL before cooking.
Secret #2: smoke the delicate meat with Sassafras instead of a heavier or fruity wood.
I oiled the skin on the backside of the salmon while hubs sprayed the grill with nonstick cooking spray and we proceeded to lay the fish directly on the grill for 3 glorious hours, basting all the while and biding our time till they were done and we could eat.
We have barbecued in competitions many years with the Kansas City Barbecue Society and presentation is 1/4 of the scoring in judging. Tenderness gets 1/4 of the score and Taste gets 1/2 of the score. We both cooked and judged many contests and sometimes you wished you could give a dish a better score than 9 for each category (36 being a perfect score). Now I have done my fair share of parsley (which was the only garnish you could use in competition) and you learned to make it as appealing as you could.
When the salmon was finally done, we brought it in the house. It turned out so tender and juicy and delicious ... even without the garnish, I thought it was picture perfect.