Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Smoked Alaskan King White Salmon on a Bed of Succotash Topped with Alfalfa Sprouts
I was introduced to white king salmon--or ivory salmon--more than a decade ago.   Since then, it has always been on my radar screen.

White king salmon has a softer flesh and is buttery and silky, less "meaty" than red salmon. It is clearly salmon, but with flavors evocative of perch and Chilean sea bass.  A white king salmon is considered to be an oddity where only one in 100 wild kings is white, and there is no way to know until a fish is gutted whether it has white or red flesh.  One theory about white king salmon is that they eat a different diet from their red counterparts. The bright-red color of wild salmon comes from a diet of shrimps, krill and crabs that contain carotenoids, natural pigments found in plants and animals. Beta-carotene, which makes carrots orange, is probably the most familiar one. Some scientists believe that white salmon eat mostly squid and fish, which have fewer carotenoids.  Okay, enough.  I'm starting to sound like Alton Brown.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Great-Alaska-Seafood.com announcing that they were offering a special for 8 pounds of the ivory fish.  Typically, I'm not one who keeps anything frozen in the ice box, or more contemporarily speaking, the fridge--other than stocks or sauces-- but I opted to place the order.  And what an order it was.

The fish arrived in a Styrofoam box.  The salmon was sealed in ten individually frozen cryovac packages. Each package contained a 13-14 ounce portion which is enough to serve two people.  Additionally, since the packages are in cryovac, they could also be prepared in the Sous Vide Supreme machine.  That's another story.

For the first recipe, I sautéed the fish in a mixture of olive oil and butter, skin-side down first for about 3 minutes, then the flesh side down for another 2 minutes. I do not like overcooked fish.  When done, I topped the fish, flesh side up, with a sprinkling of pink sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Made this way, the fish was perfect served with a side of freshly sautéed spinach and garlic.

Another method I used that was quick and very easy to do was to poach the fish in about 2 cups of (home-made) fish stock and butter. As the fish simmered, I spooned the pan juices over it while gently turning.  It was done in just a few minutes.  Prepared this way, I served the fish with a side of bamboo rice, topped with a ginger glaze.
Then, I pulled out the indoor grill.  After lightly brushing the fish with olive oil and seasoning with kosher salt and freshly-ground white pepper, I grilled the fish until done.  Served with a topping of sautéed porcini mushrooms, parsley and lemon, this was another winner.

Sautéing, poaching, and grilling fish.  Nothing new here.  And with all of this beautiful fish at my disposal, I was anxious to make some new recipes, so I decided to pull out the Camerons stove top smoker and make white smoked salmon. Before I smoked the salmon, I created a brine and let the salmon sit in it for about 8 hours.  The brine is supposed to help form a coating on the fish to prevent it from drying out and prevent the smoked flavor from becoming too overbearing within the flesh of the fish during the smoking process.  For my brining mixture, I used low-sodium soy sauce in lieu of the cups of salt typically found in brining recipes.  Also, I used a combination of peppercorns.  My smoking mixture consisted of kicked up rice and teas, brown sugar, and alder chips.

Smoked Alaskan White King Salmon on a bed of Succotash Topped with Alfalfa Sprouts

White King Salmon in Brine
To Brine:
2 cups water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
2 fresh bay leaves
2 6-oz portions of Alaskan White King Salmon, skin on

Mix brining ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Place fish skin side down in glass baking dish and add brining liquid.  Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Smoking mixture of rice, teas, and brown sugar
Mixture for Smoking:
1 cup Chinese forbidden black rice
1/2 cup white tea pearls
1/4 cup green tea leaves
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon alder smoking chips
Combine all smoking ingredients and spread on the bottom of a stove-top smoker pan.  Place the dripping tray over smoking mixture.  Lightly oil the wire rack and place on top of the dripping tray.  The pan is ready to go.

Succotash ingredients:
4 ears fresh corn, husked
4 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed
4 ounces sugar snap peas
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 tablespoons butter

Lime or lemon wedges
Alfalfa sprouts

Make the Succotash:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add corn, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut kernels from cobs and place into a medium saucepan.  Set aside.

Bring another large pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook until tender and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and place into a separate bowl of ice water. Bring cooking water back to a boil and add snap peas. Cook until tender but slightly crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove snap peas and place into a bowl of ice water.  Remove both vegetables from ice baths and pat dry on paper towels.  Then, halve green beans, and slice snap peas diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the green beans and snap peas and butter to corn mixture. Place pan over medium heat and stir until thoroughly warmed.  Stir in chives.
To smoke the salmon:
Remove salmon from brining mixture.  Pat dry and place into prepared smoker, skin side up.  Smoke for about 12 minutes.  Turn off heat and let salmon rest in smoker for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove fish from smoker.    

To serve:
Make a bed of succotash mixture on each plate.  Place a fillet on top, skin side down.  Top with alfalfa sprouts and garnish with lime or lemon wedges.
Yield:  2 servings.

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