Summer is wild salmon season in the Pacific Northwest. Bears are busy filling their bellies for hibernation and literally catching fish flying into their mouths while fishermen are earning a living or pursuing a recreational activity. Having just returned from Alaska and eating enough salmon to grow gills, I feel I should compare the two fish.
Due to over fishing for so long, there is less than 1% of wild Atlantic salmon available. It is mostly farm-raised in coastal waters of Chile, Norway, Scotland and surprisingly British Columbia. I think Atlantic salmon has it all over Pacific in taste. The flavor is more delicate and the meat does not seem quite as heavy to me. It certainly is more receiving of sauces as well. AND I can eat smoked Norwegian salmon sliced paper-thin until I am blue in the face but that’s just me and my taste buds. Wild salmon is a little more earthy but some claim that each species of salmon taste way different. It’s really a matter of opinion. I think that you would have to do a side by side comparison taste test to note a difference.
There are five different types of wild Pacific salmon as I learned on our trip. There is sockeye (‘reds’), pink (humpbacks or humpies), chinook (king), coho (silvers) and chum (dogs). Their nicknames are fun and relate to their appearance. The Alaskan waters are a fisherman’s paradise but it is the stages of their life cycle that fascinates me. It seems simple enough – the eggs hatch, they migrate, they reproduce once then die. However, it is much more complicated a process than that.
The cycle begins in freshwater where the eggs are fertilized then hatch in the spring. Depending on the species, once they hatch they either stay in freshwater or head directly to the sea. At this point, all species are called ‘fry’ and are of course feeding for growth. Surviving in this stage is just part of the natural process of elimination. What astonishes me is the migration of the fish. How they know where they originally came from is a freak of nature. Scientists believe they detect scents or chemicals from their original habitat. In any case, once they get there, they spawn and eventually die; perhaps creating clues for the next generation to return there. I know we learned about this when we were young but I enjoyed researching it more for this post. There are so many minute details about each species. And I love nature.
Whatever salmon you prefer, it is a very healthy protein full of vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for your cardiac and nervous systems. Eat salmon twice a week and you may live longer!!!!! You can prepare salmon many ways. Grilled, pan-seared, baked, smoked; you name it. I prefer to eat it raw or smoked but at home I sauté the fish and prepare a light sauce.
In Alaska and Vancouver, my diet consisted of fish, mostly salmon, morning, noon and night. I tasted sockeye and coho which I understand are expensive to buy fresh. The chef on the ship went in to town when we were at port for fresh fish and Granville Market in Vancouver had me at hello. Still, I prefer Atlantic salmon and since I live on the east coast, it is readily available and affordable.
My dear, departed friend Gloria entertained so much in her lifetime. She made a poached salmon mousse with dill sauce for larger parties. I have prepared this beautiful dish when I entertain and it’s a no fail recipe that everyone enjoys. So in memory of my gracious friend, Glo, I gladly share my version of her old-fashioned recipe.
Ali’s Oven-poached Salmon Mousse with Easy Dill Sauce
Start by oven-poaching the fish and all the other steps fall into place. It seems like a lot of work but you won’t be disappointed. The most difficult part is removing the mousse from the fish mold intact!
Line a baking dish with lemon slices and dill. Rub 2 salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place fish on top of the lemons and pour white wine in the dish just covering the fish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to over cook the fish! It should flake apart easily.
Ingredients for mousse:
- Butter for greasing the mold
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup cold water and ½ cup boiling water for the gelatin
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1 T. sweet onion, grated
- 2 splashes hot sauce
- ½ t. paprika
- 1 t. salt
- 2 cups flaked and diced oven-poached salmon
- 2 T. capers
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Lemon slices and dill for garnish
- Grease a large fish mold with butter.
- Soften the gelatin in the cold water. Add the boiling water; stir well until gelatin is dissolved.
- Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion, hot sauce, paprika and salt to gelatin, mix well.
- Fold in the salmon and capers.
- Add the cream and continue folding until well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the mold; cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, carefully invert the mold onto the serving platter. Create a fish ‘scales’ with lemon slices along the back and garnish with dill sprigs.
- 1 English cucumber, peeled, grated and drained
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1 t. salt 2/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill for at least one hour.
- Serve sauce next to the mousse with water crackers.
I have also prepared a salmon spread using smoked salmon, heavy cream, cream cheese, lemon juice and dill in a food processor. Combine until smooth and serve in fun shapes on cucumber slices. Talk about easy…
And pick up some salmon fillets the next time you are wondering what to make for dinner. Pan-sear the fish in a little olive oil a few minutes per side and serve with a lemon, shallot and herb sauce. Perfect!