12 weeks of salmon
Twelve weeks by no means makes me an expert on salmon. But I like to think I have a better grasp on this enticing pink delight after spending the last twelve weeks researching, experimenting, and cooking over 20 salmon recipes. And I hope to share what knowledge, tips, and insights I’ve gained along the way with fellow salmon-lovers.
Welcome to the Joys of Salmon!
Salmon, salmon, salmon. I anticipated I’d be sick of you by now, after having lived, breathed, and dreamed (yes, dreamed) of you for the last few months, but I am not. Instead, I love you even more.
When I started this twelve week salmon expedition, I admit, I was still partial to the taste of farmed salmon. But over two-dozen wild salmon meals later, I am glad (and sad) to say that for the most part I have lost my taste for farmed salmon and farmed steelhead (salmon’s cousin). Although farmed salmon is much more fatty, which usually equates to a richer taste, its downfall is that it can taste watery. Farmed salmon doesn’t have as much flavor as wild (read: REAL) salmon. No comparison. Wild salmon has a much more… luxurious taste compared to farmed salmon and packs in far more flavor per bite.
In addition to noticing the evident differences between the taste and texture of farmed versus wild salmon, I educated myself about the ramifications of buying and eating these different salmons. The hours I spent researching the perils of farmed salmon (for people, the environment, and the salmon itself) didn’t make me miss eating farmed salmon one bit. For a detailed lowdown of what I learned about farmed versus wild salmon, please refer to my “Farmed or Wild” salmon article.
Wild salmon isn’t the only thing I’ve grown fond of. My pallet decided to *refine* itself (my pallet wishes it was refined and sophisticated) by developing a taste for the small, thick, strip-like filets commonly found at fish counters—as these cook exactly the way I like: crispy grilled on the outside (depending on cooking method), but medium rare in the middle.* I’ve noticed they cook even more perfectly than the family-sized large filets I grew up eating (and loving). The mini filets make for an impeccable portion of paradise.
*On cooking salmon perfectly: 4-6 minutes per inch of thickness, per side is a good rule of thumb when cooking salmon. Check the salmon a couple minutes before the anticipated cooking time by gently inspecting the filet layers with a fork. Salmon should be taken off the heat before flaking occurs, but there will be slight visible separation of the filet layers. Complete flaking and separation of filet layers means the salmon is overcooked and dry. For moist, succulent salmon that is still pink and slightly translucent in the middle, but cooked and crisp on the outside, follow the rule of thumb and (most importantly) check on the salmon towards the end of the cooking time. After I finally achieved salmon-cooking-*perfection* a couple of times, it got easier to visually predict when the salmon was done. The hardest part for me was being patient—I wanted my salmon now, dang it!
For a chain grocery store in my area, Whole Foods has the best meat and fish service, and they will graciously go above and beyond to help you with your needs. But, as its nickname suggests, “Whole Paycheck,” is not the most financially sound option. The service and food quality is superb, though.
For someone who had never worked with raw fish before, I can say it never hurts to charm the fishmonger into taking out all the bones beforehand. Or, even better, having him teach me the tricks of the deboning trade.
Salmon is for Everyone
Perhaps the most important revelation I can impart is this: salmon is for everyone. For those not blessed with a fancy BBQ grill or a large paycheck (or are stuck in school, with no full-time income, like me), there’s no excuse to believe you must recuse yourself from dreams of enjoying succulent, luxurious, delectable salmon—yes, even the pricier wild salmon! Salmon doesn’t take hours of slaving away in the kitchen, either. In fact, I learned that I could (and did) make affordable, fast, and delicious salmon meals for myself and my friends—all in my tiny kitchen with my old fashioned oven, in less than 15 minutes. Yes, it’s true. And it can be a reality for everyone.
Become a savvy shopper, find the best deals in town, create a great recipe (or find something here), and 15 minutes later steaming-hot scrumptiously-cooked salmon is coming out of the oven, smelling up the kitchen with its tangy, garlicky, lemony scents. For someone who had never worked with raw fish before, I can say it never hurts to charm the fishmonger into taking out all the bones beforehand. Or, even better, having him teach me the tricks of the deboning trade.
Salmon Reinvents the Classics
Feeling a bit more adventurous than oven-baked salmon? Good. Not to knock the simple pleasures in life, like easy oven-baked salmon, but I strive to push my culinary experiments as far as they go before they get… weird. Or inedible. Luckily inedible has only happened a couple of times. Salmon is (according to this aspiring salmon-expert), The Most Versatile Fish Ever. Really, what can’t I cook with salmon? To challenge my previous notions that salmon was “properly” cooked on the grill and consumed with lemon on the side (although I still love love love me some lemon and citrus zest!), I went deeper and transformed a few beloved classic dishes—with salmon.
Have a weakness for some devilish pasta carbs? Me too. Fettuccine Alfredo with a creamy dill sauce is made infinitely better with some (you guessed it) smoked salmon! And peas. I plop in whatever inspires me in the moment and it always turns out delish. Devilishly delish.
Salmon burgers sound healthier? Ok, ok, I suppose they do. But deliciousness is not compromised for nutrition in this burger recipe. In fact, when I have the hankering for a salmon burger, nothing hits the spot better. Pass the chips and suds and I’m set.
Crazy for Garlic? Basil? Butter? Um, yes please.
Salmon teriyaki made right in my own kitchen. It’s true. So easy, so yum. No more goopy teriyaki sauce drowning my poor salmon filets at the sushi bar. This time I make my own sauce, however goopy I want it, and pour it over my beautiful salmon filet myself. It’s all up to me.
Salmon Begs for Adventure, Feats and Failures Alike
Edging for even more? So am I. I’m going to take it up a notch.
From smoked salmon onigiri to sushi-grade salmon treats, I’ve had a bit too much fun playing with my food. I like to get messy and feel the food in my hands when I cook, especially when I get to tear smoked salmon apart, form balls of rice in my hands, or delicately arrange cubes of sake on my *perfectly* formed rice tower.
Let’s not forget the salmon skin. (No, never!). Salmon skin is not a thing to be overlooked. Or tolerated. Salmon skin is a thing to respect, cherish, and adore. And eat with verve! It’s not slimy; it’s not gross. I promise. When cooked correct (CRISPY!!), it’s a delicacy. I can’t help but smile whenever I bite into perfectly crispy salmon skin.
Salmon is Versatile: the Many Methods of Cooking Salmon
In the “How to Cook Salmon: the Best Way” article, I take my dinner guests on an extravagant taste test of salmon. I use four filets of salmon, each cooked using a different method: salmon on the cast-iron skillet, salmon on the charcoal BBQ, salmon on the gas grill using the grate, and salmon on the gas grill using *drumroll please* the plank.
Even though there’s no bad method of cooking salmon (don’t let me catch you defaming a sacred salmon filet to prove me wrong!), the plank method won by a long shot—a unanimous vote.
It’s true that the plank method was the far most popular cooking method during my taste test, but it’s also true that I was cooking the salmon filets using a simple rub of spices. What happens when I want to get a bit fancier and cook salmon in some sauces? What about cooking with the chunky stuff, like mushrooms (mmmmmmmm), cherry tomatoes, whatever I can think of? In these cases, it can work best to cook salmon in a dish in the oven, in order to preserve the delicious sauces and side fruits and veggies that may accompany the salmon. Wrapping the salmon in a foil pouch before popping it in the oven—or even on the BBQ!—works really well because I can shape the foil to ensure the sauce completely surrounds the fish.
The “Cooking Salmon on a College Budget: Foolproof, Fast, Phenomenal!” article details one of my favorite foil-pouch, oven-baked salmon recipes. This was the first salmon recipe I made, and it remains one of my favorites. It’s too fast, easy, and mouth-watering (and kitchen-dance-inducing) not to love.
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Proceed with Passion and Push the Barriers
1. Use awesome ingredients. Try some tang! Sprinkle that spicy! Experiment with the extravagant.
2. Practice, practice! It took me three tries to get the smoked salmon onigiri down. But the result was a meal so magnificent that my parents make me cook it for them whenever I visit home.
3. Eat with passion! Enjoy what you cook, and don’t be afraid to show it.
I hope my salmon escapades excite and entice the salmon-loving mind; the well-seasoned chef; the avid culinary adventurer; the picky eater; the go-getter trying to impress their date; even the timid, first-time cook.
To my friends and family, and to anyone who just wants to cook a damn good salmon meal when the hankering hits, I welcome you.
Welcome to the luxurious and Epicurean world of salmon; I hope you enjoy immensely! I certainly did.
More Yummy Recipes on Forq
Basil, Meet Garlic. Garlic, Meet Butter. Butter—You Know What to Do.
Strange food combinations work. But, sometimes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it with more weird. When it comes to salmon–enter: garlic, butter and basil.
College, Upgraded: Fettucine Alfredo with Dill & Smoked SalmonComplementing a classic; embrace the carbs, embrace the cream. Add the salmon.
Going Old School: Cream and Mushrooms, Anyone?Lemon-butter-honey or cream and mushrooms. Why choose? You can have both.
Salmon Teriyaki with a TwistDitch the check and pick up your apron. This family favorite can be made at home.
Mustard-Chive Butter Toasts with Lox: Appetizer of Champions!The perfect appetizer for any event. The only thing you’ll have to change are your shoes.
Sushi-Grade SalmonMaking art with sake.
Steelhead, Salmon’s CousinDebunking steelhead.
The Sunday Salmon BurgerNever feel guilty about eating a burger again. Enter, the salmon burger.
How to cook salmon
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A West Coast Adventure: Where to Get the Goods
I am thrilled to have an excuse to try salmon at some of my most coveted restaurants—Chez Panisse, anyone?… Read More
Farmed vs. wild salmon
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