As part of Grist’s coverage of all things aquatic, Amelia Urry — Grist’s assistant editor and resident oceans fanatic — challenged me to prepare an entire salmon without wasting any part of it. I took her up on it, because I didn’t get the nickname Eve “I Love A Challenge” Andrews for nothing!
Watch our video to witness all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this process. Just kidding! If I can do this, anyone can (really) and I’d encourage you to give it a shot — as long as you have more or less an entire day to spend on it.
For those who’d like to follow in my highly inexperienced footsteps, recipes (courtesy of Maria Finn, Mark Bittman, Chichi Wang, and Bun Lai) are below.
1 lb. assorted salmon scraps (Note: We used trimmings from a filet that wasn’t, er, sliced to perfection, salmon belly, and salmon collar.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. chili flakes
3 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup sour creme or creme fraiche
A combination of fresh ginger, lemon zest, fresh horseradish, scallions, shallots, depending on personal preference
Dash of salt and pepper
Food processor (optional)
- Soak 1 cup of wood chips in water for about 1 hour.
- Stir together all marinade ingredients. While wood chips are soaking, marinate half of fish parts for about 1 hour.
- Drain the chips and lay them over 1 or 2 sheets of tinfoil. Place on lower rack of gas grill over low heat. Arrange marinated fish parts on upper level of grill. Smoke for about 1 hour.
- While the salmon is smoking, poach or lightly sauté the other half of your salmon parts. Scraping bones with the back of a spoon works well for getting the flesh off.
- Mash all rillette ingredients in with the smoked and poached/sautéed salmon, but keep it a little chunky. (Note: We used a food processor for this step.)
The Minimalist’s Gravlax
Mark Bittman via The New York Times
1 cup salt
2 cups sugar
1 bunch dill, stems and all, chopped
1 2- to 3-pound fillet of salmon, pin bones removed.
- Mix together the salt, sugar, and dill. Place the salmon, skin side down, on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the flesh side of the salmon with the salt mixture, making sure to coat it completely. (There will be lots of salt mix; just pile it on.)
- Wrap the fish well. If the temperature is below 70 degrees, and it is not too inconvenient, let it rest outside the refrigerator for about 6 hours, then refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours more. Otherwise, refrigerate immediately for about 36 hours.
- Unwrap the salmon, and rinse off the cure. Dry, then slice on the bias (see illustration). Serve plain or with lemon wedges, creme fraiche, sour cream, or a light vinaigrette.
Maria Finn via CHOW
Drizzle of sesame oil
Red pepper flakes and coarse sea salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- De-scale salmon skin with a sharp knife by running the blade against the scales and lightly pushing them off.
- Place skin, flesh-side down, on baking sheet.
- Rub de-scaled side with sesame oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and coarse sea salt.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Salmon Head Soup
Chichi Wang via Serious Eats
2 salmon heads, or one salmon frame (head, tails, and scraps)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
8 ounces potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large bunch fresh dill
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 cup cream, or to taste
About 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill (Note: We used parsley)
- Over medium heat, melt the butter in the sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the salmon parts, the potatoes, bay leaves, salt, and all but a few stalks of the dill. Add enough water to just cover the fish. Bring the water to a steady simmer and cook until fish and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish parts from the liquid. When the fish is cool enough to handle, separate the meat and other edible parts (eyeballs, cartilage, etc.) from the skeleton. (Note: We did not include the eyeballs and cartilage, because we’re wimps. But watch the video above to find out what we did with them!)
- Add the fish parts back to the soup. Reheat gently at a low simmer, taking care not to break up the fish flesh. Add the cream and the chopped fresh dill. Add more salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately. Leftovers may be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days and reheated over a low simmer.
Pressurized Salmon Bones (A Delightful Snack!)
- Fill pressure cooker approximately half-full with water. Add salmon bones.
- Seal top and place over stove burner on low for 3 hours.
- Drain water and pat bones dry before storing in jar.