Not So Little Fishes

Not So Little Fishes

This is a reprint from our first year – Hey… it’s salmon! And Salmon season is almost among us… and I do love me some salmon.


My favorite time of the year is almost Here!

What, you didn’t send out your cards yet?

You haven’t bought the kid’s Sockeye costumes with the grotesquely over-exaggerated head parts?

You haven’t converted the front yard into a mock-up of Northwest spawning grounds?

There aren’t any dainty little dishes scattered around the house filled with roe and gravlax?

“Ok, maybe it’s just me…

Wild Salmon Season is here. I anxiously wait for it every year. I absolutely cannot wait to see those big slabs of ruby-red flesh at the market.

Not that there’s anything wrong with farmed salmon…exactly….. It just doesn’t have the same depth of taste, the silkiness of texture, the richness of color.

…Alright, farm raised salmon is just pretty damn bland.

But, I’ll admit, seeing a 2-foot long piece of fish at the market can be a little scary for some people. 5 to 8 pounds of salmon is a lot of fish, and knowing what to do with it all can be a tad daunting.

Never fear – Help is on the Way! I’ll give you a couple of ways to break down the fish so that you can:

1. make it more manageable

2. make it more enjoyable (in case you’re not the huge fishy fan)

3. make yourself seem like the quintessential expert on serving up Sockeye.

First and foremost – Look for Fresh Caught Wild Salmon, or Wild Sockeye Salmon. Most better fish markets will carry it. I know that Kroger and Publix both will carry whole sides “Skin-On”.

Skin-on is always going to be better. Unlike a lot of fish, the skin on fresh salmon is very tasty and it crisps up really great when you grill or saute it. You want to make sure there is a deep reddish-orange color to the meat and that there is a decent fat layer between the skin and the flesh.

Now – Check for bones. You will need a pair of good tweezers, or needle-nosed pliers for this. (Just make sure you wash and sterilize them really well.)

Lay the salmon out on a sanitized counter – skin side down.

With the pliers in one hand, run your fingers down the flesh, starting from the tail and working your way up to the head area. The bones will be noticeable. Catch the exposed edge of the bone with the needle nose or tweezers, and with your free hand, hold down the fillet as you pull it out. It should slide out fairly easily – with just a little resistance.


Any of the following can be done with a whole salmon – if you need a ton of portions. But, I think with a 6 to 9 pound fillet, you will probably want to work these down into 2 to 3 pound sections, just to make it more manageable.

1st – The Easy One


Grilled Salmon with Bourbon Glaze

This is “basically” the glaze a particular steakhouse in the area uses on their salmon. I really like the way the bourbon and soy compliment the gaminess of the salmon
Serves 6 to 8

2 to 3 Pound Salmon Fillet (Skin On)
1/2 Cup Bourbon
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar – Packed
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
Cooking Spray
Aluminum Foil
Charcoal Grill – or – Gas Grill
1 Small Sauce Pan
1 Basting Brush

Preheat the grill to 450
In the sauce pan on low heat, melt the butter
Add the soy sauce and brown sugar, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved
Add the bourbon and lemon juice and remove from the heat. – Cool
With the pastry brush, liberally apply the glaze to the flesh side of the raw salmon and let it sit for 10 minutes
Spray one sheet of foil with oil and place on the grill
When the foil is hot, place the salmon on – skin side down
Cook the salmon on High heat for 7 minutes – uncovered, brushing the fillet every 2 minutes with the glaze.
After 7 Minutes, close the lid, and cook for another 6 minutes
Remove from the heat and serve

Okay – now Moderately Easy



A Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill. Gravlax is usually served as an appetizer, sliced thinly and accompanied by a dill and mustard sauce, either on bread of some kind, or with boiled potatoes.
Serves 12 to 14

2 to 3 Pounds of Salmon – De-boned, Skin-on
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons White or Green Peppercorns – Crushed
1 Bunch Fresh Dill – Rough Chopped (Leaves and Stems)
1/8 Cup Vodka
1 8″ x 8″ Pyrex Dish
1 Roll Plastic Wrap
A Couple of Salad Plates – for weight
1 Crusty French Baquette
1 Recipe Mustard Dill Spread – See Below

Cut the fillet in half
Lay a piece of plastic wrap in in the Pyrex dish to overlap over the sides of the dish and big enough to cover the fillets.
Lay one fillet, skin side down, on the plastic wrap.
Mix the salt, sugar and crushed peppercorns and spread half of this mixture over the exposed side of the fillet
Cover the top of the salt mixture with the chopped dill
Sprinkle 1/2 of the vodka over the dill.
Spread the rest of the cure mix over the dill and sprinkle the remainder of the vodka on top
Lay the second fillet of salmon, skin side up,on top of the salted 1st layer.
Pull the plastic wrap up to cover the fillets.
Place the salad plates on top of the salmon to weigh it down
Place the dish in the refrigerator for 48-72 hours. (depending on how salty you want the gravlax)
Once a day, take the dish out of the fridge and carefully flip the wrapped fish over.
Place the plates back on top and return to the fridge
At the end of the curing time, take the fillets from their wrapping, remove the dill and scrape off any excess salt mix.
Slice thinly across the fillets and serve with Mustard-Dill Spread and Toasted Baguettes
The gravlax should keep at least a week covered tightly in the fridge.


Mustard – Dill Spread

Makes about 2 Cups

1/4 Cup Prepared Coarse Ground Mustard
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Cream Cheese – or – Tofutti(c) Cream Cheese Substitute, if you’re Lactose Intolerant)
1/2 Cup Dill, Finelt Chopped – use all of the herb
3 Tablespoons Sugar
3 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
Food Processor
Place all the ingredients into the processor hopper and pulse until everything is combined and creamy.

Now – the not-so-easy one…

Salmon Coulibiac

(pronounced: Koobie – yak)
Salmon Coulibiac is basically a Russian fish pie – so there is a crust. Traditionally, it is made with more of a brioche dough, but I like the presentation value of puff pastry. I’ll give you the brioche version. But if you want to use puff pastry instead, it will take a considerable amount of time off the preparation as you are using a readi-made, prepared dough. We’re also taking a few liberties here and there, I’ve made a few time saving changes in techniques, hoping that you’ll at least try to make it.
Serves 8

1 1/2 Pounds Salmon Fillet
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Medium Onion – Chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Baby Portabella Mushrooms – Finely Chopped
1 Tablespoon Curly Parsley – Chopped
2 Cups Cooked Rice
4 Hard Boiled Eggs – Sliced
1 Tablespoon Butter – Melted
1 Recipe Brioche Dough – or – 1 Package Puff Pastry Dough
1 Egg – Beaten
1 Can Mushroom Soup
1/4 Cup Half n Half
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Medium Sauce Pan
1 Large Skillet
1 Baking Pan
3 assorted mixing bowls

Preheat the oven to 375
Cut the salmon into 8 equal portions
In the skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and saute the onions until translucent
Add the rice, salt and pepper
Saute until most of the oil and liquid is absorbed – set aside in a separate bowl
Place the butter in the skillet and saute the salmon fillets – 3 minutes on each side
Lift the salmon out of the oil and set aside
Add the mushrooms to the pan you cooked the salmon along with the lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper
Saute the mushrooms until they have stopped letting off liquids and have darkened in color – Set aside
Heat the half n half and add the mushroom soup and wine – heat until it begins to thicken back up and set aside
Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick
Cut the dough into 16 pieces roughly 1″ bigger than the salmon – length and width
Place a layer of sliced egg on 8 of the prepared dough sections ( keep 1/2″ of the dough clear so you can attach the top “crust”
Top the eggs with the onion / rice mixture
Place a salmon portion on top of the rice
Top the salmon with the mushroom mixture
Place 2 tablespoons of the soup mixture over the mushrooms
Wet the edges of the base dough and top with the top crusts
Press the edges with a fork to seal the pies
Place the pies on a baking pan and let rise for 30 minutes
Brush the pies with the beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes

Brioche Dough Recipe

or feel free to use the Tangzhong Bread Recipe – HERE

1/2 Cup Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
3 Large Eggs
1 Cup Flour
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
6 Ounces Butter – Softened
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Large Mixing Bowl
1 Stand Mixer

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar.
Add the flour to make a really soft dough.
Set the dough in warm place until it doubles in volume – about 30 minutes
Beat in the eggs, the 1 cup of flour, sugar, and salt.
Gradually add the butter and remaining flour and mix well.
Transfer the dough to a working surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
Form into a ball.
Place into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let rise at room temperature until dough doubles in size – About an hour.
Punch the dough down in the bowl.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to begin the next day, keep the dough cool and roll out to a large rectangle – about 1/4″ thick

2 thoughts on “Not So Little Fishes

  1. Wow, this is a great post, Toby. Salmon is hands down my favourite fish, and you’ve given us so many great ways to try it. I make gravlax nearly every week (at the moment I’m mad for adding grated beetroot and orange zest to my cure), but I’m always looking for some new inspiration. I’m all over that bourbon glaze and I can’t wait to try the Coulibiac – I’m lazy though so I think I’ll be running with the puff pastry version.

    I’m a little envious that you can buy wild salmon there. If we want wild salmon, we have to don a pair of waders and walk out thigh deep into the river to catch one. As far as farmed salmon goes, we have a few suppliers here farm fresh water salmon often in dams and lakes which I’m not at all partial to as it tastes at best bland, and often quite “muddy”. I’m very lucky though that quite close to where I live we have one supplier who ocean farms salmon and manage to produce pretty good product – well as good as it gets here in New Zealand anyway.

    Hope all is well with you. Life has been a bit nuts the last few months and I’ve been a bit of a stranger – my bad 🙂

    1. Aww Sue, we don’t stand on ceremony here… visit when you can 🙂
      I really prefer the puff pastry way better – easy always wins out in my book. I’m more than a little envious that you can go out and catch your own…. My life would be all turkish delight and lions if I could do that – but I’ll admit, throwing on a pair of sandals and hitting the market sounds easier.

      Life is good, thanks so much for asking.

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