Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to cook a Sockeye

The Sockeye are running and boy, are they good.

I never imagined I would be able to discern different types of salmon, but after living in the Northwest for so many years, I've found that Sockeye tastes different than Coho; Cut Throat tastes different than Chinook.

When confronted with my first fillet of fresh salmon, I didn't have a clue about how to cook it. I was advised to layer it with slices of orange and onion, wrap it in all up in foil and bake it.

Later, when I got a beautiful hunk of fish, I remembered a wonderful breakfast I ate in Japan. I was traveling with a group of potters and we had stayed in a traditional Japanese Inn. The innkeeper gave us a most unusual and delicious breakfast: Cold trout that had been cooked in a sweet soy and spice sauce. (If you're ever eaten fish with hashi, while the fish--head and all--looks on in shocked horror, is an adventure in dexterity.)

I remembered that wonderful cold fish and tried to duplicate it's flavor. So here goes:

Mix a up a combination of the following:

1 T. sugar (brown sugar is good too)
3 - 4 T. Japanese rice vinegar or sake, if you choose
Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Add olive oil equal to or 2/3rds more of the vinegar (ex. 3 T. vinegar; 5 T. olive oil)
Add in soy sauce to taste. I usually put in an equal amount of soy to vinegar
Add Basil, garlic, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce--whatever seasoning you like.

Mix this all up and set aside. Be sure to mix again before adding to the fish.

Put some extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick pan. Heat it to medium-high and lay the fish, skin side down into the oil and cook until you see the meat change half-way up the fillet. Gently turn the fish over and begin cooking the other side.

Just after you do this, pour the seasoning mix over the fish. If your pan is hot, it will sizzle a lot. Turn the head down and poach the fish to finish cooking. The sauce with naturally thicken. Spoon it over the fish if you want or drizzle it over the finished dish to serve.

Only turn the fish once. Serve with a green salad and home-baked bread. Or make sauteed spinach and breaded tomatoes as side dishes.

I love cold, left-over fish for breakfast. Served with buttered toast points, it's privileged eating indeed. I remember that great cold Japanese trout, the kippered herring from the UK, the wonderful pickled herring I first ate in Amsterdam.

Every molecule of my Scottish and Scandinavian DNA rises up and thanks me with each mouthful.

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