June 2013 Update: Fishing has been good for Dave Legro and he’s had outstanding wild Pacific King salmon every weekend. You’ll find it at farmers markets in Santa Rosa (Mark West Springs Rd., Saturdays), Healdsburg (Saturdays) and Sebastopol (Sundays). And here’s some added great news. Next week, he should have sand dabs, which disappeared from the marketplace a few years ago. I’ll be posting favorite recipes as soon as the catch is in.
In today’s Seasonal Pantry, I talk about the 2013 Wild Pacific Salmon season and offer one recipe, Wild Salmon Salad with Preserved Lemon Chermoula, which you’ll find here. As promised in the column, here are salmon recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, along with updates from previous years and a discussion of cooking techniques.
SFBLT (Smoked Fish BLT, with smoked salmon)
2011 Update: After three lean years, we finally have great salmon from Bodega Bay. Today’s Seasonal Pantry, which you can read here, focuses on it, with two delicious recipes, Salmon Belly & Tapenade Sandwiches and Wild Salmon with Corn, Nopales, Poblanos & Chipotle.
A colleague was reading a recent Pairing column about Foppiano Pinot Noir and asked me for the full recipe of a dish I mentioned in passing, wild salmon wrapped in bacon and cooked in a slow oven. This post is for him and for anyone else who prefers wild King salmon that is juicy and succulent. All too often salmon is overcooked, which is such a shame because cooking it perfectly is so easy.
First, you must get the salmon, of course. Currently, I buy salmon only from Dave Legros, who sells at farmers markets in Sebastopol and Healdsburg, including the Tuesday afternoon market on the Healdsburg town plaza. The oh-so-brief California season has closed but Dave is getting fresh (not frozen and not farmed) Pacific King salmon from Oregon and Washington. One of the most important qualities in a fishmonger is trustworthiness and Dave is absolutely that. He will never ever try to slip you farmed salmon and when he tells you his fish has not been frozen, you can believe him.
So, now you have your salmon and you are ready to cook. For the best results, there are a couple of things to tend to first. Before you begin, preheat the oven to 225 degrees; put a heavy pan, such as a cast iron frying pan or a ridged skillet, that will hold the salmon in the oven at the same time.
I use needle nose pliers to remove the pin bones. It is easy; simply run the tips of your fingers gently over the flesh, feeling for bones. When you find one, grab it with the pliers and give it a pull. Continue until you find no more bones. Next, remove the scales, also easy to do, though a tad messy. Set the salmon skin side up on your work surface and use a sharp knife held at about a 15 degree angle to scrape off the scales, pushing into them so that they flip up and off the fish. If your knife glides easily without removing any scales, you are moving with the grain; you need to move against it so turn the fish 180 degrees.
Next, season the fillets lightly with kosher salt. I often shake chipotle powder (which I buy from Crescent Moon Farm) over the salmon first, unless I am going to wrap the fillets in bacon.
To wrap the salmon, fry thinly-sliced bacon until it gives up most of its fat but has not begun to turn crisp. It must be pliable. Drain it on absorbent paper and when it is cool enough to handle wrap it around the salmon fillets. You’ll need 1 or 2 rashers for each serving of salmon.
When the oven reaches 225 degrees, set the salmon–wrapped or not–in the hot pan and set the timer for 20 minutes for fillets that range from 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. For thin fillets, set the timer for 15 minutes and for thicker ones, cook for 25 minutes. Wrapping the fillets is bacon does not change cooking times. Allow about 6 to 8 ounces of salmon per person.
That’s it! It is as close to a foolproof recipe as you’ll find. When the timer sounds, remove the salmon from the oven and set on individual plates.
If you have become accustomed to salmon that is fairly dry, you might think slow-cooked salmon is undercooked. It’s not. The process of very slow cooking keeps the flesh juicy and succulent; you’ll be amazed by the difference.