“Salmons’ sense of smell is far superior to humans, in that they always go back to their natal stream – the same exact place where they were born to spawn and die. There’s only one salmon specie that do not die after spawning, and that is the Atlantic salmon. After spending almost 8 years out in the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic salmon does all sorts of acrobatic leaps, and swims with great strength against strong currents to go back to that special place where they were born. And then after laying their roe, they cover it up with gravel, and swim back down the stream and rivers to the open seas. Though only a few of them go back to their natal stream for the second time to spawn again, because going up and down that stream for hundreds of miles, and in some cases close to two thousand miles, take a great toll on their bodies.
What an amazing thing to do for a fish. They know exactly what their purpose is. And that is to preserve their species.” This was part of what I had written during the past few days. But I couldn’t quite put this writing into a cohesive piece that means something, something that I could tie in with my life and my past experiences. The only memory of salmon that I could recall is that, growing up we eat canned salmon when no fresh fish was to be had. When, during the typhoon season, the sea is turbulent that no fisherman is fool enough dare to fish. And the other times we eat salmon is if somebody, a relative died, and the family of the dead has to feed a large number of people – relatives, friends and neighbors, with very little money they had; a can or two of sautéed salmon in garlic and onions, and tiny strings of wheat noodles called misua (mis – wah) doused with large amount of water to create ‘salmon noodle soup.’ This would be enough to feed 20 to 30 people. As a kid I was right there with the adults, bowl in hand with rice, topped with ‘salmon noodle soup.’ If my mother happened to be the cook that day, my brothers and I were the first ones to eat in the corner, hidden behind a curtain, so nobody would see us. As I got older, I started disliking the taste of canned salmon because some adults would joke how “those weren’t salmon. They’re python. Just look at how they’re shaped – round and bony!” they’d say. So from then on, whenever we had canned salmon, I’d think about it being a python – a snake! And I’d start gagging. What a horrible thing to inflect on a child. Adults can be very mean at times. Back in those days, I was just a little girl and didn’t know any better. I really thought that was true. And to this day, when I see a can of salmon – I’d think “hmmm, could that really be a snake?” which is silly because I know they’re not. Imagine how much more of a hassle to can a snake? I’d be too much hassle. It would be far easier to can salmon – real salmon.
It wasn’t until I came to America that I started eating salmon again. Not canned salmon though, fresh or frozen salmon. Though, a few times, when my husband made fried salmon patties – a favorite dish his dad used to make when he was a young boy. I tried. I tasted it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the taste of pink salmon, I never do. I don’t like the taste of any other salmon, other than Atlantic salmon. And I kept wondering why. Then I started reading up on salmon. I found that of all the salmons – the six varieties of Pacific salmon: Cherry, Chinook or king, Coho, pink or humpback, and Chum, and Keta salmon, these salmons mature in salt water, in the open seas, but do not stay as long as the Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon, however, spends most of its life on salt water, up to 8 years in the ocean. So I’m thinking… this is why. Maybe their longer stay in the ocean is the reason why I like the taste of Atlantic salmon. It tastes similar to salt water fishes which I prefer to fresh water fishes. I don’t care too much for fishes such as catfish, carp, milkfish and any other fish harvested from fresh water. To me, they taste strange. And I find them to have a more intense fishy taste, and sometimes they can taste muddy. I know some of you would say: “Well, its fish! It should taste fishy!” No, no. All fish do not taste the same. Blue fin tuna is good. Red snapper is good. Sword fish is good. Usually, fish with firm flesh do not taste too fishy. And that’s maybe why I like Atlantic salmon more than any other type of salmons. If I can’t have Atlantic salmon, I’d settle for a Chinook or king salmon, and that’s because it too, spend a long time in the sea. The other type of pacific salmon? Forget it. I definitely do not like the taste of Coho, Keta and pink.
There are several issues with Atlantic salmon, especially the wild ones. They are an endangered species here in the United States. In Canada a person is limited to catching 7 Atlantic salmons per year. Its also more expensive compared to the Pacific salmon. Even farmed Atlantic salmon, which comprise 99% of the world fish market, are just as expensive, and may not be as healthy as we might have been lead to believe. Farmed salmon, especially the ones coming from Chile, are feed with more antibiotics, than the ones farmed in Norway, according to one report. I don’t recall eating the ones from Chile. They sell them at Sam’s Club and I haven’t convinced myself to buy them. I prefer the ones coming from Norway, especially the wild ones. I don’t think I’ve found an equal.
As for cooking Atlantic salmon, I cook them simply. I cook them pan fried with simple and spicy breading. I love them baked with fresh rosemary and fresh citrus juices. Also excellent grilled. Here are a few of recipes I’ve developed for cooking salmon. Each recipe serves four people. Please cook according to how many people are dining.
Pan Fried Salmon with Simple Breading
4 Atlantic salmon fillets (boneless), about 8 ounces each
2 tsps. Kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
¾ tsp. cayenne pepper
Seasoned flour – see below
½ cup extra light olive oil
Season salmon fillets with the kosher salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne on both sides. Dredge with the seasoned flour.
Fry in hot extra light olive oil for 5 minutes on each side over medium heat.
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. cayenne (optional or use less)
Citrus Rosemary Baked Atlantic Salmon
4 Atlantic salmon fillets, boneless – about 8 ounces each
Juices from 2 large limes
Juice from 1 large lemon
2 inch piece ginger – peeled and grated
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1 TBSP.) – chopped
3 tsps. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsps. kosher salt
4 TBSPs. extra virgin olive oil
In a medium size bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Stir until well incorporated and salt dissolves.
Place salmon fillets skin sides up, in a rectangular (10 x 15) glass baking dish. Pour over the marinade. Marinade salmon for at least 20 minutes but no longer than 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Turn the salmon fillets skin sides down. Bake salmon with its marinade, uncovered for 15 minutes at 400°F. Spoon marinade over the salmon and bake for another 10 minutes. (Keep an eye on the salmon; be sure the juices/marinade do not dry up.)
Remove salmon from the oven. Cover with foil and rest 5 minutes before serving.
Serve the salmon with the remaining juices spooned on top of each filet.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking!