It's been good getting back into the old routine here after our trip. That of course, would mean my weekly trip to Catalina Offshore.....and of course, running into Tommy Gomes. This time around, Tommy asked me if I'd ever cooked White King Salmon.....heck, wasn't that really expensive stuff; like what Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud are serving at pretty hefty prices? And I have a chance at it? A nice center cut piece to be exact.... Tommy, did you miss me??? I'd never cooked this product before and I asked Tommy what the difference was between this and regular wild king salmon. His response, "it's different, kind of hard to put a finger on it, the mouthfeel is definitely different, give it a try...." Which is precisely what I did.
I'm sure you're wondering what this looked like, right?
Ever see salmon that looked like this?
Yes, this is King Salmon, the same species as your run of the mill Onchorhynchus tshawytscha, also known as Chinook Salmon. What causes the lack of pigmentation? Apparently a genetic mutation that causes an inability to metabolize astaxanthin. According to the Alsakan Department of Fish and Game, "research has shown the white kings and the red-fleshed kings are identical in composition of lipids, moisture, protein and omega -3 fatty acids". Different sources state that this mutation occurs in anywhere from 1% to 5% of the population. White King Salmon used to be destined for canning or the smokehouse; but perhaps, like Patagonian Toothfish, aka Chilean Sea Bass a name change from White King Salmon to Ivory King Salmon brought about a larger demand?
Bottom line, does the taste and texture any different from regular wild King Salmon? Some say yes, but the described differences are all over the board and contradicting. Some say no.
So here's the drill; I first went with a simple pan saute, with a quick dill infused olive oil to finish and some stir-fried vegetables.
Wow, this was good, to us it was quite different from the usual King Salmon we get. It's not quite oilier, but somehow richer, reminding us of King Clip in the way it flaked. The flavor was quite a bit milder and the typical salmon flavor was a bit more faint, it also seemed to have a slightly sweeter finish. This was outstanding fish.......
So, the Missus decided that I should figure out a way to crust this, adding pepitos to the whole thing. Easy to say from where She sits when I gotta make this stuff! Anyway, toasted and coarsely ground the pumpkin seeds. Panned seared the simply seasoned salmon; added a smear of dill mustard as "glue" to hold the pepito crust, finish in a hot oven.........holy smokes......
This was my favorite preparation; it had it all, great texture (man that skin had gotten a texture like chicharron), the combination of nuttiness, dill, and mustard did really well, not interfering with the flavor of the salmon. In fact, it just seemed to add the correct instruments to the band.
Of course I had to come up with a different version for our next meal. The Missus wanted something really tender and steamed. I had to grill off some other items for Her, so I went with a version of en Papillote on the grill. My usual M.O. for this would be to add some wine for moisture and flavor....unfortunately, the current diet the Missus is on allows no alcohol of any kind, to drink or cook. So I went with a few slices of lemon on top, a healthy squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of Grieben Schmalz.
After 20 minutes, the Missus had Her favorite preparation. This was nice, everybody brought something to the party; the schmalz laced with caramelized onions added some nice sweetness along with the thin sliced zucchini, the tomatoes and lemon juice a nice contrasting acid, the onions a mild sweet pungency....the schmalz and juices from the fish had rendered over the vegetables.
Simpler is often better, as is the case when using salmon belly. I saved that cut to have with a nice salad, salt, pepper, and the Big Kahuna raging.
Melt in your mouth salmon belly.....a nice final dish.
So, if you skipped to the end here and want to know what we think; I'd say buy it if it's fresh.....if I don't get to it first!