As a cook, salmon is one of my favorite fish to work with. However, being a cook that only supports sustainable fish it takes some work and study to find. Salmon is one of the most popular fish in North America. This fact has lead to aggressive overfishing, pollution of natural habitats, and systemic environmental annihilation.
No biggies right? Just buy farmed salmon. Well that is where things get tricky. Most of the salmon farmed in North America are raised in open-water pens. These pens do not offer a barrier, thus are damaging to the surrounding environment. All the fish waste, chemicals, disease and even the farmed fish interact and impact the naturally living wild fish in the area. Certainly not something anyone interested in preserving the oceans for future generations wants to support.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch list, there are coho salmon raised in farmed tank systems. These are considered to be “best choice” for purchasing sustainable salmon. The fish are raised in closed environments, which offer minimal risk to surround wild areas. In addition, they employ strict security protocols to ensure the integrity of the farmed fish. However, good luck trying to find some for purchase or even getting the truth about the origin of production.
Luckily there are still five species of wild Pacific salmon available in North America, one of which is coho. Alaskan wild caught coho salmon is considered a “best choice” for its sustainability. Find a reputable source you can rely on. There are numerous good quality fish suppliers online. Look around the net, the information is readily available.
When buying salmon seek out fish that seem alive; it really is that simple. The skin should be bright and vibrant. The eyes should be gleaming and not sunken in. Dull and dry eyes are a sign of age. If the fish has a heavy “fishy” smell, keep moving. Fresh fish should smell of clean deep ocean.
When cooking salmon I leave the skin on. In my opinion, the texture and flavor of crispy salmon skin is almost comparable to good pork crackling. The main culprit that will ruin your crispy skin experience is excess moisture. Skin with a lot of water in it will take longer to crisp, thus overcooking the flesh. Always remove fish from the fridge thirty minutes before cooking and dry with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Another fantastic technique for drying out fish skin, I learned from Chef Thomas Keller. Using the back of a knife, drag it across the skin, to force the water out, almost like a squeegee.
In this particular course, I served the cooked coho salmon with crushed Idaho purple potatoes and white truffle oil. The potatoes are seasoned with Girard’s White Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing. It is low in sodium and contains absolutely no high fructose corn syrup. The white balsamic offers a tangy, flavorful and healthy kick to the potatoes. Complete the flavor profile with a swirl of decadent white truffle oil.
Crispy Coho Salmon with Crushed Idaho Purple Potatoes and White Truffle Oil
For the salmon:
- 6 oz coho salmon fillet – skin on
- fine sea salt
- ground black pepper
- 4 lemon thyme sprigs
- 2 tbs safflower oil
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
Remove the fish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. Using the back of a knife, squeegee the salmon skin to removes excess water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season the skin side with fine sea salt.
- In a cast iron skillet, heat the safflower oil and lemon thyme over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan to make sure all the oil comes in contact with the thyme.
- Add the butter. Once the butter melts and foams, add the salmon, skin side down.
- Using a fish spatula, hold the salmon down for 30 seconds, to maintain complete skin contact with the hot pan. Most of the cooking will take place on the skin side. About 3 to 4 minutes.
- Baste the fish with the oil from the pan.
- Gently turn the fish. Baste the skin with the oil.
- Cook for 1 minute on second side.
- Remove to a wire rack to rest, skin side up.
For the crushed Idaho purple potatoes:
- 1 lb Idaho purple potatoes – cleaned & scrubbed
- 4 lemon thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 tbs black peppercorns
- coarse sea salt
- chives fresh – chopped
- marjoram fresh – chopped
- 3 tbs Girard’s White Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Place the potatoes in a stockpot. Fill with just enough water to cover the potatoes.
- Add the lemon thyme, bay leaf, black peppercorns and a generous handful of coarse sea salt.
- Bring to the boil. Boil for 15 to 18 minutes. Until the potato is easily pierced by the tip of a knife.
- Drain and peel the potatoes.
- Tip the potatoes into a glass bowl. Using a potato masher, gently crush the potatoes. Do not over work them. You still want some texture.
- Add the white balsamic dressing. Check for seasoning. If needed, season with sea salt and ground black pepper.
- Gently fold in the fresh chopped herbs.
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