Healthy and sustainable, wild salmon is truly a West Coast treasure. Whatever cut you buy, the succulent pink flesh deserves to be treated like gold. The following recipes will have you on your way to becoming a master salmon chef in no time.
Chefs and home cooks have long known that wild salmon is a luxury worth every hard-earned penny. And when summer cooking season comes around, West Coast wild salmon—including sockeye, chinook (king), and coho—should be on every seafood-lovers menu.
Ocean conservation organizations recommend wild salmon from British Columbia as a sustainable option— a result of healthy population sizes and fishing methods that are less destructive to the marine environment. Although salmon farming practices are evolving and improving, farmed salmon (often labelled “Atlantic”) continues to be a less desirable option due to several concerns, such as antibiotic use and contamination of surrounding waterways.
Fatty in a good way, wild salmon get high marks among health professionals for bringing a boatload of omega-3 fatty acids to the dinner table. Higher intakes of omega-3s have been linked to a number of health benefits, including lower risks of depression and heart disease. It is this high fat content that also lets wild Pacific salmon stand up beautifully to the heat of the grill, as the fat bastes the flesh from the inside out.
On the flipside, a recent report suggests that omega-3 levels are dropping in farmed salmon as a result of changes in their feed.
- Cedar Planked Maple Miso Salmon
- Salmon Ceviche Lettuce Cups
- Salmon with Pea-Herb Sauce and Crispy Shallots
- Poached Salmon Sandwich with Tomato Chutney
- Salmon Burgers with Strawberry Salsa
Serve it up!
- Stir together cream cheese, prepared horseradish, and lemon zest. Spread cheese mixture on rye crisps and top with sliced gravlax and chopped chives.
- Spread Dijon-style mustard on a slice of rye bread. Top with sliced gravlax, sliced cucumber, sliced and roasted red pepper or peppadew peppers, arugula, and a second slice of bread.
- Whisk together free-range eggs with sliced green onion. Cook eggs in skillet over medium-low heat, stirring often, just until they are barely set. Remove from heat and stir in chopped gravlax, sliced sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and chopped dill.
- Grill or roast asparagus spears and slices of bell pepper until tender. Wrap bundles of asparagus, bell pepper, and arugula with slices of gravlax and secure with toothpicks.
When something is as precious as wild salmon, it’s important to choose the best and then treat it right.
Play the field
There are some subtle differences in colour, taste, and texture among the species of salmon harvested in North America, but they generally can all be used interchangeably in recipes.
Ideally, buy fresh wild salmon the same day you are going to prepare it. Failing that, keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to two days before using. When purchasing, employ your nose—good quality salmon should have a faint smell of the sea and be not at all “fishy.” The flesh should be tight—gaps in the flesh indicate deterioration.
In season, wild Pacific salmon is caught, immediately stored in ice on the fishing boat, processed shortly thereafter, and then swiftly shipped to stores and markets across the country. However, some boats have the equipment needed to produce high quality frozen-at-sea salmon to help you enjoy this gift of nature year round.
Bone of contention
Your salmon may contain pin bones—small, flexible, needlelike bones that run the length of the meat. Some fishmongers may have already removed them for you, but you should make sure before cooking. To check, move your fingers lengthwise in both directions down the centre of the fillets. If any pin bones are present, use tweezers to grab the tip of the bones and give them a gentle tug, pulling each out in the same direction they lay; pulling the bones out in the opposite direction can tear the flesh.
When cooking your salmon outdoors, preheating the grill grates well and making sure they are very clean can go a long way in keeping the fish from sticking. You also want to brush oil on the skin or flesh and the grill grate for extra protection.
Take it easy
You are better off slightly undercooking than overcooking wild salmon. Its texture shines when there is a touch of translucence present in the centre. Some additional cooking will occur when the salmon is removed from the heat.
A good rule of thumb is to cook salmon on the grill or in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. It’s not necessary to flip salmon when it’s on the grill with the lid closed, which greatly lowers the risk of the flesh breaking apart. A centre cut is a good option for the grill, as it will cook evenly.