06.16 So Edible: Wild About Wild Salmon

So Edible is a monthly feature with recipes and cooking tips to inspire eating fresh home-made food.

I was reading an article recently on The Kitchen blog about cooking whole fish and was profoundly struck by this comment, “Salmon is hard to find whole in a regular market; wild Alaskan salmon is even more difficult. But if you make friends with your fishmonger, you can usually arrange something.”

Wow, really? I felt a rush of gratitude as I contemplated the ample availability of wild Alaskan salmon we Northwesterners enjoy. The thought of needing to make special arrangements with a fishmonger to get my hands on a whole wild Alaskan Salmon sparked a deep appreciation for the abundant access we have to this spectacular fish. Not only does every QFC, Safeway, Albertsons and even Costco offer a variety of wild Alaskan salmon options, we have numerous specialty fish markets over flowing with top-quality seafood. Places like Mutual Fish, University Seafood and Poultry, and Pure Food Fish Market not only have an excellent selection but knowledgeable staff that’s happy to answer questions and share recipes and cooking tips.

My newly fueled gratitude for the salmon riches of our area had me heading to my favorite source, Loki Fish Co. at Fisherman’s terminal. There is something extra-special about buying salmon right off the boat from the person who caught it. In addition to the familiar Sockeye, King, and Coho salmon, they also sell Pink Salmon which are not generally seen in grocery outlets because Pinks are too delicate to be processed by large industrialized fishing operations. The whole Pink I bought was only $8.00, which is a very affordable way to enjoy salmon if you aren’t in a position to splurge on the more decadent Sockeye or Kings. If you aren’t familiar with the various species of salmon, Loki has a nice salmon tutorial on their site.

Pete Knudson, owner of Loki Fish Co., is passionate about promoting sustainable fishing practices and preserving small-boat fleets in Seattle. His efforts to protect our treasured salmon make him a Northwest treasure in his own right. He’s heading up to Alaska today to fish though September. I wish him a safe and bountiful trip and look forward to purchasing some of his catch.

Here is a video of Pete Knudson talking about his sustainable fishing practices:

Hopefully your heart is bubbling over with gratitude for our magnificent salmon fortune and you’ll pick some up to cook for dinner this week. Salmon is never fresher than right now and we still have three to six weeks left on the prized Copper River run. I’ll share a few tips on how to have a no-fail outcome if you are new to cooking salmon.

With high-quality fresh salmon I prefer to let the ingredient shine and use nothing more than a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper.  The most critical step in cooking salmon is stopping before it overcooks. Using a probe thermometer is a great way to get instant temperature feedback and avoid overcooking a beautiful piece of fish. I generally target 130 degrees F for people that like their salmon very moist and tender and 140 degrees F for people that like salmon opaque all the way through. The cooking methods are endless with salmon; grilling, pan frying, poaching, and baking all produce excellent results as long as you stop cooking in time. Here is a helpful demonstration of how to determine when salmon is done from Rouxbe’s online cooking school.

If you are cooking fillets, be sure to cut the pieces of fish into similar sizes so they cook in the same amount of time. To get a beautiful golden crust on pan fried fish, it’s important to pat the fish dry before seasoning and placing it in a pre-heated pan.  If the fish is wet it will steam or boil rather than fry. For the most beautiful appearance, cook the presentation side of the fish first. The side that is cooked first always has the best color because the pan or gill is the hottest. Fish cooks very nicely on a low heat making it easier to avoid over cooking, but you need to use a non-stick pan to cook on a low heat. If using high-heat, a stainless steel pan is a perfect choice and the higher heat will give the fish a deeper golden brown color and crispy skin. If you are cooking a whole fish on a grill wrapping it in foil is an easy way to keep it from sticking and falling apart when it’s flipped.

Looking for a salmon dish that has a bit of glamour to wow dinner guests? Check these options out.

Anything abundant and accessible is easy to take for granted. The next time you buy salmon I hope you will take a moment to celebrate our good fortune to be living in the beautiful Northwest where wild Alaska salmon is available in every store. I’d love to hear your tips and favorite preparations for cooking salmon, so please share.

Photos by David Peterman

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Carol Peterman

Carol writes the blog feature, So Edible, a monthly post with recipes and cooking tips to inspire eating fresh homemade food. Carol is the owner of TableFare, a company developing unique kitchen products that combine the best of form and function to create superior usability and beauty. As a passionate cook obsessed with spices, she loves to inspire others to cook and share their food experiences. She writes the blog mix, mix...stir, stir on TableFare.com, teaches cooking classes to low-income families as a volunteer with Operation Frontline, and is always ready for a food adventure. Connect with Carol onTwitter @TableFare and Facebook.

* This post is from a Girl Power Hour featured blogger. It is not written, edited or endorsed by Girl Power Hour. The authors are solely responsible for content.

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