Wildly different: the versatility of Alaskan salmon

15 September 2016 by
Wildly different: the versatility of Alaskan salmon

Last month, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute hosted an event designed to demonstrate to chefs the versatility of salmon from the wild waters of Alaska. Katherine Price reports

The five species of Alaskan salmon

Wild Alaskan salmon is considered among the best in the world, and is categorised into five different varieties, all offering distinctive characteristics.

King (Chinook) Alaskan salmon has a blue-grey appearance with silver sides and small, irregular-shaped black spots on its back and dorsal fin and usually both lobes of the tail. This species has an intense flavour, red flesh and a high fat content.

Coho (Silver) Alaskan salmon is greenish blue with silver sides. It has small black spots on its back dorsal fin and usually on the upper lobe of the tail only. It has a strong shellfish flavour with a high oil content.

Sockeye (Red) Alaskan salmon is dark blue to black in colour with silver sides and has no distinct spots on its back, dorsal or fin. It has a meaty texture, with a deep red flesh that retains its colour through cooking.

Chum (Keta) Alaskan salmon is a dull grey with yellow/silver sides and no distinct spots on its back or tail. Its flesh is lighter in colour and oil content than other species of salmon, but it has firmness and is flavoursome.

Pink (Humpies) Alaskan salmon has very large spots on its back and large oval blotches on both tail lobes. It also has very small scales. This is a mild-flavoured salmon and softer than most, with a tender, flaky texture.

The matches

Above: Lightly cured Sockeye salmon cooked in a water bath with compressed apple in mirin,
pickled cucumber, watercress emulsion and nasturtium leaves. Paired with Holzer Grüner Veltliner

soy and sugar, served with seaweed salad on sushi rice.
Paired with Soli White Blend (Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and GewÁ¼rztraminer)

Sockeye salmon confit in smoked butter with charred spring onions, gooseberry chutney and raw gooseberry.
Paired with Mon Vieux (oaked Sauvignon Blanc)

Salmon Reuben - hot-smoked, pepper-crusted Coho salmon with achari-spiced mayo, cold-pickled white
cabbage, pickles and rye crumble. Paired with Cabaret Frank Cabernet Franc

What the experts said

"Wild salmon is wildly different," says Jon Harman, Northern Europe trade relations for ASMI. "Each species has a different place and a different use.

"You can cook all these species from frozen and they perform just as well, which can give you consistency and control over wastage when you don't know what the service is going to be."

Dhruv Baker

MasterChef 2010 winner and chef Dhruv Baker says: "It's a joy to work with different species of the same fish - the possibilities are endless. The feedback from this event was good and I think people were pleased with the variety, style and flexibility of the Alaskan salmon.

"Our goal for this event was to provide our chef guests with some simple dishes. It was designed to make them aware that there is this variety, that it is sustainable - and that Alaskan salmon is of very high quality."

The plates

Ian Parsons, business director of Tableware supplier Continental Chef Supplies, worked alongside Baker to choose the crockery for the event. The plates used included:

Rak NeoFusion flat coupe plate 21cm (black and white)

Rak NeoFusion flat coupe plate 24cm (black)

Rak NeoFusion rice bowl (grey)

Zieher Skyline slate buffet plate (with rubber feet) 80cm x 40cm

Zieher Skyline slate buffet plate (with rubber feet) 60cm x 40cm

Coho salmon

Chef-consultant Damian Wawrzyniak, who has worked with chefs Jamie Oliver at Fifteen and Mary Berry, attended the Alaska Seafood event and created this exclusive recipe.

Best served at room temperature

To salt-bake the beetroot

  • 800g table salt
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 1kg beetroot
  • Handful of hay

Mix the salt and eggs together into a dough and then roll out. Place the dough onto a large baking tray and wrap the beetroot with the hay and then with the dough. Bake at 160ËšC for one hour and 30 minutes and then allow to cool. Remove the beetroot from the dough and blend in a Vitamix.

To cure the salmon

  • 900g salt-baked beetroot gel (comes naturally from salt-baking the beets)
  • 250g kosher salt
  • 250g sugar
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed, organic lemon
  • Handful of dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 side of Coho Salmon, skin off (approximately 1.5 kg)

Mix the beetroot gel, kosher salt, sugar, lemon zest and dill in a Vitamix. Then portion the salmon into pieces to fit into 300mm x 200mm vacuum bags - three to four portions per side.

Place the salmon inside the bags and cover with the beetroot brine. Vacuum at medium (PolyScience setting 3.0) and then cure the fish for five days.

To make the ash

  • 500g curly kale
  • ½ white of a large leek, diced
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp red cracked pepper
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds

Place the leek and 500g of the kale on a baking tray. Burn it under the salamander, inside a Josper or on a charcoal barbecue.

Leave to dry out overnight. Blend the with the cumin, fennel and red cracked pepper in a herb blender and then sieve.

To serve

  • 250ml crème fraÁ®che
  • 130ml fromage frais or fromage blanc
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed, organic lemon
  • 300g curly kale
  • 100g baby spinach
  • Yorkshire cress

Mix the crème fraÁ®che with the fromage frais and lemon zest and refrigerate. Blanch the kale and spinach, but keep the water for the next step. Strain and squeeze out any extra moisture before blending the spinach mixture in a Vitamix with 10ml-20ml of the blanching water.

Remove the salmon from the bag, wash under cold running water and pat dry. Leave to reach room temperature, and then coat in the ash. Serve with the sauce and beetroot and garnish with Yorkshire cress.


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