Waste Not, Want Not—Using the Whole Salmon
The fish was handsome, about 16 pounds and sparkling like a faceted diamond in the spring sun. I’m always thinking about the next dinner. That is no problem with a fish like this: The spring-run salmon or “Springer” is one of the tastiest of all fishes, or just maybe the best. I didn’t plan on wasting a single morsel. My brother, Jeff and I caught the fish in the Columbia near Cathlamet. Pricey, they are available from fishmongers this time of year and worth every dollar.
Filleting a fish is never easy. I’ve practiced for years and the high art still alludes me. I soldier on. After cutting away the two large fillets, I saved the head and skeletal backbone. It had lots of flesh woven between the bones. Years ago, the famous chef, Jamella Lucas, explained—against common practice—that the head and bones of the salmon makes a rich, oily stock that is to be coveted. I followed her direction. I also saved the trimming to use with the stock in a Thai salmon soup, the first of many meals to be gifted from that large salmon.
The collar of the salmon possesses the most tender meat on the salmon. I bake the two collars separately, often with the belly meat.
Ingredients for the soup
1 whole onion, diced small
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 stalks of celery, small diced
One sweet yellow or red bell pepper, small diced
3 heads of regular bok choy, cut into ¼ inch sections
8-10 ounces of salmon pieces (no bones)
1 can of coconut cream
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of salmon stock
2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh fennel
2 tablespoons corn starch
A dozen pieces of ravioli (optional)
Just for the heck of it, I added a dozen pieces (two per bowl) of a cheese ravioli to the finished soup, just before serving. Floated them on top. This added a nice finish and a bit of a fusion—Thai and Italian— to the preparation. I also sprinkled a teaspoon of chopped chives over each bowl. One could plop in a dollop of creme fraiche as well, but I was already happy with the product. You will be too. Salmon this good is as fine a protein as darn near anything swimming or grazing on our amazing planet.
I sauteed one onion, minced garlic and ginger in a good olive oil, and then added the vegetables. When translucent, I added white wine and the stock. I married in a can of coconut cream and the herbs. To thicken the soup, I made a slurry with corn starch. Only at the last minute did I add salmon scrapes from the carcass to the soup. I seasoned the soup with salt ( I don’t salt the stock) and served it immediately. The salmon was so tender and the soup aromatic and flavorful. I could smell the richness of the sea and savor the tender flesh of this exquisite fish.
Salmon bones and discarded pieces. Filtered water, (2 or 3 quarts). Onion ends, celery, carrots (the head and trimmings) and asparagus ends with a bit of ginger, miso, and a tablespoon of curry paste--all ingredients slow-boiled for about two hours. I poured the liquid through a sieve and reserved the stock.
Here is the best sauce ever for a salmon fillet just out of the oven with those small white nodules rising above the orange/red flesh. Serve this fillet with a Beurre Blanc sauce and life sparkles like sun on water.
Ingredients: ¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup fine minced shallots.
2 tablespoons of minced fennel
½ cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
8 ounces of cold butter cut into ¼ pieces
Reduce the wine, vinegar, fennel and shallots to just a tablespoon of liquid, add the cream and reduce for about a minute, and then finish off with 8 ounces of cold (1/4 inch) butter pieces. When just melted, run the sauce through a mesh and serve immediately.