Served hot or cold, baked, poached or grilled, even in a soup, salmon is one of the easiest fish to prepare.
However you plan to serve salmon, the trick is not to overcook the fish. It should be juicy and moist when served. In Salmon variations I offered several ways to prepare and present salmon dishes and I’m such a fan of both Atlantic and Pacific salmon that I’m offering more well liked recipes.
I always recommend organic salmon, because there may be a few less than healthy salmon farming practices still out there and organic comes with some guarantees. If you’re willing to pay even more, then by all means buy wild caught salmon. In that case it will be one of the four major species of Pacific salmon: called chinook, coho, pink and sockeye. Another species is called chum and is essentially a bait fish – chum being a bucket of fish parts used to lure game fish and sharks – it may be edible but I wouldn’t try it.
Chinook, also called king salmon, is the most delicious of them all and my top choice. It has a high-fat content and rich flesh, from white to a deep red in colour. Coho has bright red flesh and a similar flavour to chinook, but a more delicate texture. Pink salmon is the most plentiful species, with very light colored, light flavored flesh and low-fat content, often used for canning and smoking. Sockeye has bright red-orange flesh and a deep rich flavor.
Unlike their Pacific relatives, Atlantic salmon are all one species, so overfished that wild caught fish are no longer available. Farmed fish come from Canada’s maritime provinces, the New England states, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and Scotland. They are also farmed in the Faroe Islands, and deeply discounted at our local supermarket, but because the islanders still insist on catching endangered pilot whales, I won’t personally buy their fish, however good they might taste.
Variations in flavour come down to what the farmed fish are fed. In Eastern North America it is probably herring; in Europe it is more likely to be tiny shrimp called krill. When fish farming started in Norway 30 years ago, it had a very bad reputation, but the aquaculture industry has learned over the years and techniques are mostly improved. The Norwegians export a lot of fish, so it has become ubiquitous on the event circuit. If there’s fish on the menu at wedding, it’s probably Norwegian salmon. Safe and not very flavourful. Scottish salmon is my top choice, followed by fish from Eastern Canada, for Atlantic salmon.
Find a reputable fishmonger, like Seafront Fish Market in Toronto’s famous St. Lawrence Market; ask lots of questions, and if you like the fish they offer, learn to trust their judgement. The nice people at Seafront always pull all the pin bones out for me and cut my fish into equal fillets. If your fishmonger isn’t so cooperative, just run your fingers along the centre spine of your fillet. You will feel the bones easily. Just pull them out with tweezers or small needle nosed pliers.
Almond crusted salmon
- 4 salmon fillets (approx 7 oz/200 g each)
- 4 peeled and minced cloves of garlic
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup thinly sliced toasted almonds
Preparation and cooking
- Wash and dry the fillets. If the fishmonger hasn’t already cut them to size for you, use a very sharp thin knife and slice them into equal portions between about 7 oz/200 g each, keeping the skin on the bottom, place skin down in a dish.
- Make the marinade from the peeled and minced cloves of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Mix well in a cup and pour over the salmon. Cover in plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for between 30 and 90 min.
- When ready to cook pre-heat the oven to 200°C/390°F, remove the plastic wrap shake the almonds all over the top. Bake uncovered for 20 min. When you lift the fish out carefully, the skin should stay behind.
- Plate with veggies and serve at once, or cool, cover and refrigerate for use with salads or soup.
The cooked dish goes particularly well cold with SALADE NIÇOISE or CUCUMBER AND MINT SALAD, two of my particular favourites. It is also an excellent base for a bisque; a fish or seafood based smooth creamy soup.
- about 250-300 g / 9-10 oz fillet of salmon, cooked (sockeye adds good colour)
- 5 TBSP butter
- 5 TBSP fine sauce flour
- 1/2 onion, chopped fine
- 3 cups unsalted vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup table (18 per cent) cream
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sour cream, garlic croutons, parsley, edible flowers (optional)
Preparation and cooking
- Make a roux: melt the butter in a pan, sauté the chopped onions until they are translucent, sprinkle on the flour and stir until well blended. Meanwhile, warm the broth. Slowly add the broth to the mixture and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add the bay leaf. Cook until the sauce thickens.
- Add the wine and cook for a further 10 mins. Stir in the sun dried tomato pieces.
- Break the cooked salmon into smaller pieces and add to the sauce. Cook only long enough to warm the fish through. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bay leaf
- Pour into a blender, taking care not to overfill. Blend until completely smooth. Do several batches if necessary. Then return to the pan, or cool until needed.
- Before serving, stir in the cream and bring the soup to serving temperature. Do not boil. Serve at once.
- Garnish with your choice of a swoop of sour cream, a few garlic croutons, a pinch of chopped parsley, or decorate with edible flowers.
OPTION: This soup is delicious cold. At step 4 above, chill the soup in the fridge. Before serving, stir in chilled cream. Garnish with any or all of the four suggestions.
Featured image: Almond crusted salmon, served with fresh carrots, broccolini and new potatoes
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This is Nigel’s 281st blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories. Here is the link to Market to Table: The Cookbook, a bargain at $11.50. The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook will be live as soon as it is published (that is shortly after the pandemic is over).
Categories: Simply food