If you love salmon you may not give much thought to which salmon you buy. Salmon is salmon, right? Oh sure I know you look for a quality product and you may prefer wild salmon over farm raised salmon (or maybe the other way around??). Beyond that, salmon is salmon. It has a bold taste and a buttery texture, and you like that.
But what if I’m wrong? What if you don’t like that bold flavor all that much? Maybe it’s just too fishy tasting for you. Do you feel like you’ve missed out on something when all your friends are raving about at the “good fat” in a serving of salmon?
That bold taste comes from a high content of fat (yep, the good kind your friends were raving about). It can also come as a pretty bold price point. So even if you love salmon and it’s bold flavor perhaps you consider salmon a luxury, something you can’t afford every day.
Well I’m here to solve both of these problems for you by introducing you to wild Keta Salmon from Alaska. It’s also known as Chum, Dog or Silverbrite salmon. I was recently sent a sample from Alaska Seafood. It gets a bad rap so I thought I’d do a little research to see if it deserves it.
According to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Keta is the second-most abundant salmon species in the north Pacific region. It ranks third in importance to the U.S. salmon fishing industry and is commercially fished from Oregon to Alaska, with the majority of the catch coming from southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound.
When it comes to salmon, this lesser-known, milder-flavored fish is underrated. Though I’m not sure why. This species of salmon is flavorful, sustainable– and affordable, too. Compared to King or Sockeye, Keta can be a real bargain. Fillets can easily be found at $5.99 per pound sometimes less. It’s not as common in stores and that may be why it’s so unknown to consumers. But I called three markets randomly and asked if they could get some Keta salmon and 2 out of the 3 said yes. One could even have it for me the very next day. Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want.
2011 Ravines Dry Riesling Finger Lakes
Pairs well with Asian foods, cheese, choucroute garni, duck, fish, fruit, pork, poultry, salad, shellfish, vegetables.
But what really interests me about Keta is the fact that its mild flavor and lower fat content means I can prepare this fish differently than I might other cuts of salmon. In fact you have to, otherwise the detractors who say it’s dry have a point. But with proper cooking (wet cooking in a flavorful broth I’d argue) there are options for this variety that are intriguing to a serious cook. Have you ever noticed that salmon is not a fish typically associated with S.E. Asian flavors, especially dishes that include the bold flavors and high fat coconut milk? That’s partly due to geography and it’s partly due to the fact that the strong, full-mouth flavors of most salmon simply don’t work with rich coconut milk based sauces. I think Keta is the exception however.
So that’s where I started with this recipe. However, Asian flavors such as curry, kaffir and hot peppers can easily dominate. I still wanted to highlight the delicate salmon flavor in Keta, so I used a light hand with all these flavors.
The fact that Keta salmon is so comparatively lean also means you have to be careful how you cook it. It’s mild favor makes it a natural for smoking. It’s also often grilled on wooden planks. As delicious as these methods are you really must serve it quite rare to keep it from being dried out. As I stated one of my goals today is to please the palate of those who don’t really like salmon (or think they don’t). Rare salmon is probably too much to expect a seafood neophyte to embrace. The best way to cook lean fish all the way through is with wet methods such as poaching or simmering. I chose to simmer mine in coconut milk and I think it’s a great choice for this Asian-Alaskan Fusion recipe.
The final hurdle I made this fish swim through is the all-important wine pairing. I asked my brother Grant to pair this dish with something that would highlight both the delicate flavor and texture in this dish. He suggested a 2011 Ravines Riesling from the Finger Lakes section of New York. It’s complex enough to change the way you think about salmon and it’s dry enough to change what you think you know about Riesling too. GREG