1 October 2009
in the Pacific Northwest, wild salmon are king (i.e., red chinook or coho or keta or sockeye, to name a few of the species found here). really, salmon are an incredible and tenacious breed. many species spawn in fresh water and grow and thrive at sea, returning home (often to their birthplaces) to rivers and streams to repeat the cycle. to wrinkle my nose at these amazing creatures and their significance to Native American cultures would be sacrilege.
but the truth is that i’ve never been much of a fish eater. i do eat shellfish. like the fried clams my dad and i would religiously grab at coastal New England shacks. or nice plate of scallops. or a petite Maine lobster on a special occasion. beyond that, my seafood intake has been intentionally limited by personal preference. when i moved to Washington state, i didn’t expect my habits to evolve. until the day i went out to lunch with a few new friends, who were (and, of course, enthusiastically remain) native Washingtonians.
i’m usually not one to succumb to peer pressure, but my interest was piqued as these friends touted the salmons’ nutritional value and amazing flavor. i gulped, does it taste fishy? no, not at all!, they proclaimed. while somewhat dubious, i went to the grocery store and purchased some of the season’s first run of Copper River salmon. how was i supposed to cook it?
my mother suggested the broiler. tried that, hated it. i asked another seafood-loving Washingtonian for suggestions: smoke it. this approach actually fit beautifully into my long-term outdoor cooking strategy. after doing some research, i purchased a Traeger pellet grill. with a simple brine of water, brown sugar and Morton’s ice cream salt, the salmon sits in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight. then, i smoke it with alderwood or maple pellets for about eight hours at 180F. ta-da. probably as close to my salmon true north as i’m going to get. (note: i’ve read some nutritional value is lost in the smoking process, and i’m very conservative with the salt.)
with any leftovers, i make this salmon cake recipe. i’m certain there are many other wonderful ways to make salmon. if you have any recommendations or recipes, i’m game.
a variation based on a crab cake recipe from epicurious.com
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cooked salmon, broken into small pieces
2 cups panko or other breadcrumbs (i use an herb-seasoned blend)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons (or more) grapeseed oil
- line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- whisk first 8 ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
- mix in salmon and 1 cup panko (i add a little at a time to ensure the mixture is not too dry).
- let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
- spread remaining panko on a rimmed baking sheet.
- form mixture into patties 2 inches in diameter, using a scant 1/4 cup for each.
- press both sides of the patties into the panko, then transfer them to the parchment-covered baking sheet.
- cover and chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to a day.
- melt the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan, then add the grapeseed oil.
- place the salmon patties in the pan and cook on each side until golden (around 5 – 6 minutes total); add more butter and oil as needed.
tangy from the lemon and bursting with flavor, this cakes are perfect for a light meal, served with an herb salad that’s splashed with vinaigrette. for more hearty fare, i add a side of cheesy mashed potatoes.