How best to cook *wild* salmon fillets?
October 5, 2019 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I have about 11 pounds of wild sockeye salmon in my freezer. This is sashimi-grade fish that has been vacuum-sealed into 7-8oz skin-on fillets. Because it's wild (and/or maybe because it's sockeye? and/or maybe because the portions are so small?), it's much denser and less fatty than the salmon I'm used to cooking.

I've tried some of the salmon recipes I've liked in the past, but they don't taste as good. I've tried some online recipes (mostly from Bon Appetit) that explicitly say they're for wild salmon, but the photos they use don't actually look like wild salmon, and they also don't taste amazing. I don't want to waste this fish. What should I do differently? Is gravlax the only answer? Explicit recipe steps/descriptions and links to recipes preferred. Note: I do not have access to a broiler, or grill, or smoker.
posted by unknowncommand to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience I would say yes, denser because it's sockeye.

I recently discovered that cooking frozen sockeye 'en Papillote' changed the red sockeye meat into a more typically salmon-colored fillet.
posted by Rash at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2019

Sitka Solomon shares has great fish but also great recipes. They sell exclusively wild-caught fish, and recipes are often from the fisherpeople themselves.
posted by rockindata at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've found the key is to cook sockeye for much shorter times than other types of salmon, otherwise it dries out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:03 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My favorite fish guys at Pike Place are Pure Food Fish Market, and they have a nice website with a lot of tried and true recipes. I have on multiple occasions bought something from them on a whim, gone home and noodled around online for recipe inspiration and ended up going with something from their own website - including wild salmon. It was this recipe for salmon in miso broth and it was legit. I can't recall if it was sockeye or another type of salmon though. Here's all their salmon recipes, some of them are variety specific and some are not. In my experience cooking sockeye, you need more fat and less cooking time or very very gentle heat.

I once ate - but did not cook, so I can't help with a recipe - sockeye that had been very slowly poached in oil with classic court bouillon aromatics. It was really delicious. Because sockeye is so lean and dense the oil poaching kept it super moist and the low heat was deftly managed to provide an even cook.
posted by Mizu at 8:06 AM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Tartare? Raw, diced small, mixed with salt, really good olive oil, minced chives, eaten on a potato chip. Never tried it with sockeye because I don’t like sockeye, but I’ve used that preparation with many other fish to great effect. Don’t have measurements, sorry - use your judgement, remembering that it’s easier to add more of an ingredient than to subtract.
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:19 AM on October 5, 2019

Short and hot. 425 or even 450 degree oven (I usually do 425). Place fillets on baking sheet --dot with butter, squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of pepper. 12-15 minutes tops.
posted by loveandhappiness at 8:24 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Gravlax. Any gravlax, but beet gravlax Is particularly great. It’s easy and phenomenally tasty.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:42 AM on October 5, 2019

>Short and hot. 425 or even 450 degree oven (I usually do 425). Place fillets on baking sheet --dot with butter, squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of pepper. 12-15 minutes tops.

This is exactly what I do, except that I also fold the salmon up in a piece of baking parchment, partly because it adds kind of a steamed effect and keeps the juices in, but mostly because it prevents the entire house from smelling like fish, which makes my wife happy. You are cautioned that I have no goddamn idea how to cook anything, but I've had reasonably good luck with this.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:29 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I cedar plank in the oven.

Soak the plank for at least 8 hours ahead of time.

Make a glaze: whole grain mustard, soy sauce, maple syrup. Let the salmon soak up the glaze for a while.

Put it on the plank and bake (or put it on the grill) at 400 F til it’s BARELY cooked. Take it out *before* you see white fat emerging. I test for doneness by inserting a metal knife into the thickest part of the salmon. Place the knife on the inside of your lower lip — if it’s warm, the fish is done.

It goes well with cedar-planked chanterelles, polenta, and maybe green beans or brussels sprouts!
posted by cnidaria at 12:45 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Salt and pepper, grill skin side down, 12 minutes. That's it.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:19 PM on October 5, 2019

Consider poaching it. Most varieties of salmon (sockeye, king, Copper River) have so much flavor that techniques of grilling, burning, anything high heat, etc. are unnecessary. Gentle steaming will bring out the true essence of salmon. A species of fish destined for extinction deserves the best treatment to honor its flavor and its sacrifice.

Find a saucepan that would fit your fillets. Some do not like cutting a fillet, but I'd say feel free to cut a fillet in half if it helps with allocating portions and fitting into the pan.

Do you like white wine? Find a nice viognier or other equivalently dry white wine you'd happily drink on its own. Put in enough in a saucepan to go up to a bit under your pinky nail, perhaps about 1/2 to 2/3 cup.

You don't want too much — just enough to go up a little more than the salmon skin, and enough so that the pan won't dry out when you simmer.

Some poaching recipes suggest vinegar. I would use vinegar for a salad dressing, but a beautiful fish like salmon deserves a delicious acid, and vinegar is not usually good for this role. A dry white wine is best.

Add fresh lemon thyme and thinly-sliced shallots to the wine, add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Fresh dill is good if you don't have thyme. Salmon is good reason to keep an herb garden.

Cover and simmer this mix gently on its own, no fish (yet), for about 10-15 minutes. You may need to add a little more wine to bring up the levels so that the fish will get some steam and not dry out. The idea is to extract aromatics into the poaching broth.

Add the salmon skin side down in the broth. Cover. Gently simmer again for about 10 to 12 minutes, maybe a minute or two longer, depending on filet thickness. You want an internal temperature of around 130-135F, no more. Serve immediately with a pinch of crunchy sea salt, with a side of roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts, maybe a quick spritz of lemon juice.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2019

Thanks, all! I have hope now. Those Sitka Solomon recipes are particularly spot-on.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2019

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