Springtime’s sizzling salmon
Even though we just got approximately a foot of snow in the mountains recently, the official opening of spring is well upon us. My clock’s alarm for spring has been engaged by the opening of the West Coast salmon season.
This is always a great time of year because of the availability of fresh, wild salmon. But alas, this season is going to be, or what promises to be, a very difficult year. Early indications have brought to the market two key areas of concern which will affect the price of salmon.
The first thing is the federal government trying to protect and regenerate the Klamath River salmon, which suffered a large decline in population because of various and debatable environmental problems. This means that at various times of the year certain parts of the coastline will be closed for commercial fishing. The area north of Point Arena to the mid-Oregon coastline will be closed the entire year.
The second problem is that the salmon count is down. This is a double hit so the outcome of these problems is that commercial fishermen are not fishing for salmon so therefore, you have probably noticed, the price of fresh wild salmon has steeply increased.
One of the good byproducts of this problem is that in all probability, according to my fish mongers, the fishermen are fishing for other species to help pay their bills. You will most likely see more regional coastal fish such as Ling Cod, Sand Dabs, Petrale Sole and California White Sea Bass. All of these fish are excellent when prepared correctly.
One of your biggest challenges is going to be looking for the right fish market. All of the major grocery outlets have a fresh or frozen fish section. I, personally, recommend choosing a market where you can actually smell the fish and look at it. This means I don’t like the fish wrapped in plastic wrap or in trays.
You probably think I get all of my fish for the restaurant from wholesalers. I do. We have it flown in from all over the United States but during the time the restaurant is closed for vacation, Karen and I often go to the local market for fish. (We eat a lot of fish.)
We found, in our experience, some good, some fair and some poor. In fact, on many occasions we chose to purchase frozen fish for our dinner.
I emphasize frozen instead of previously frozen and thawed. The problem with previously frozen and thawed is that during the thawing process the fish sits in the glaze and water they use to protect it in the freezing process. In my opinion it affects the texture of the fish.
Buying fish is like buying produce. It needs to look fresh, feel fresh and smell fresh.
I can’t emphasize enough even though the price of wild salmon is high and burdensome, it is far better for you than the farm-raised variety.
As I have said many times, when you place these varieties side by side there is no comparison. You’ll notice a cleaner, fresher flavor in the wild salmon.
In these next two columns I am going to be giving you recipes to prepare salmon and some of the other fish found regionally. The two recipes in this column are ones that I have given you before and many people have asked that I offer them again.
The many preparations of fish
People make preparing fish more difficult than it is. We’ll just keep it simple.
Another great thing with spring is that the local farmers are starting to get early crops which I have been able to enjoy in small quantities at home. The farmers are up and running. The farmers market started last Saturday on Third Street in the downtown area. So please support them.
Wine recommendations for fish can vary from a light style pinot noir, California sauvignon blanc, Viogner, dry riesling and chardonnay.
The Mint Cured Wild Spring Salmon would be very good with a dry riesling or a Viogner and the Seared Salmon Salad because of acidity would be wonderful with a sauvignon blanc. Some I would recommend are Cosentino Meritage, Sobon Viogner and Martinelli Riesling. All are 2004 vintage and I am certain you will enjoy them.
As always enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Mint Cured Wild Spring Salmon
Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 pounds salmon (enough for at least four 10-ounce servings)
1/2 cup raw brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher or sea salt (do not use iodized salt)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup citrus vodka
Mix all ingredients (except salmon) in a mixing bowl. Save a half-cup of mint to put on salmon after barbeque. Place salmon in a tray or dish so it is immersed in the curing solution. Marinate for a minimum of two hours (three hours is best), remove and rinse with cold water. Pat dry.
Note: I advise that you cut the salmon into serving sizes before curing so that it will be easier to handle.
Heat your barbeque to hot (400 to 475 degrees). Place salmon on grill and cook to desired temperature. I like my salmon cooked to medium temperature. Just before you take the salmon off the grill squeeze lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with the remainder of the mint.
Seared Salmon Salad
Serves 2 to 3
2-3 cups mesclun or mixed salad greens
2 Roma tomatoes
1 small bunch seedless Flame Tokay grapes
1 tart apple
2 large strawberries
1 clove garlic, peeled
6 ounces fresh king salmon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 T. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
4-5 t. extra-virgin olive oil (we prefer B. R. Cohn)
3-4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (B. R. Cohn is also our choice)
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Put the mesclun in a large bowl. Dice one tomato and add to the mesclun. Cut the other tomato in wedges and arrange them on a serving platter.
Halve 6-8 grapes and add to the mesclun. Use the rest to garnish the serving platter.
Peel, core, and seed the apple. Slice it and cut the slices into matchsticks. Set aside about 1/3 of the matchsticks. Cut the remaining 2/3 into dice and add to the mesclun.
Hull and slice one strawberry. Add to the mesclun. Set the other aside.
Crush the garlic with a press to puree. Rub the puree on one side of the salmon. Over it, sprinkle kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon (1 teaspoon dried), and 2 tablespoons of parsley.
On a medium-high setting, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. When it is very hot, add the salmon, seasoned side down, to sear. After about a minute, turn it over, sprinkle on a teaspoon or two of the balsamic vinegar. Remove the pan to an oven with the broiler on, about 4 inches from the broiler.
On a medium-high setting, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a seasoned skillet so that the oil is “dancing” on the skillet. Add the macadamia nuts, a pinch of tarragon, and a few grinds of pepper.
Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring until nuts are just beginning to color. Pour the macadamia mixture over the mesclun, reserving a tablespoon or so of the macadamias.
Toss the mesclun mixture to mix well, arrange on the prepared serving platter, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
Place the salmon, seasoned side up, on top of the mesclun. Top it with the remaining macadamias, apple matchsticks, sliced strawberry, parsley, tarragon and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
n Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele’s. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.