Sussing out salmon’s origins safeguards nutrition

Salmon can have some fishy origins of which consumers may be hard-pressed to determine.

Such was the subtext of this month’s article on salmon in Oregon Healthy Living magazine. Farm-raised species, genetically modified organisms, even the spawn of local hatcheries all have nutritional drawbacks. Amid these concerns, wild Alaskan salmon — albeit frozen — emerges as the preferred choice of nutrition experts interviewed for my story.

I don’t gravitate toward salmon as a matter of course. There simply are other fish species that I prefer flavor-wise, and those often are more cost-conscious.

But when a friend showed up at our doorstep at 8 a.m. with not one, but two, fall chinook wrested from the Rogue River a mere mile upstream a scant hour ago, I was overjoyed. Despite a childhood spent trying our luck amid the spring and fall chinook runs, I’m rarely treated these days to salmon that’s same-day fresh.

We gratefully accepted a fillet and also salvaged the heads for stock. Those toothed maws are safely stashed in the freezer until the weather cools enough to warrant standing over a simmering pot. And until such time when the smell of roasting salmon bones won’t compete with the region’s stagnant, smoky air. Salmon stock, I discovered several years ago after the same friend shared his fish, makes a lovely bisque.

Preparing the fresh fish, I often favor notes of soy, citrus and ginger. It was easy to mix up a marinade of soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar and a splash of sherry with liberal amounts of fresh minced ginger and garlic.

I marinated the fish flesh-side down for about 30 minutes, then seared it skin-side down in a cast-iron skillet for five minutes. The very top layer of flesh finished cooking in another five minutes. I added some brown sugar to the marinade, boiled it for five minutes, then tossed it with some cubes of sautéed eggplant. A salad of quick-pickled cucumber and chili slices made a nice contrast.

The marinade in this recipe is similar, although it calls for ground ginger. Twice the quantity of fresh ginger could be substituted. Cutting the salmon into long, thin strips and skewering it makes for a fun presentation that also could facilitate cooking and eating it outdoors. You will need 4 wood skewers, 10 inches long.

Tribune News Service photo

Ginger Glazed Salmon on a Stick

1/2 pound fillet of king salmon (chinook salmon)

1 teaspoon kosher or Maldon salt

1/2 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons honey

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Splash of apple-cider vinegar (optional)

2 tablespoons melted butter

Bring grill to medium-high heat.

Cut the salmon fillet into long, 1-inch-wide strips. Pat them dry and sprinkle them with the salt.

In a small saucepan over high heat, mix the orange juice, honey, soy sauce, ginger and vinegar. Simmer until reduced by one-third. If mixture becomes too thick, loosen it with another tablespoon vinegar.

Measure out 2 tablespoons glaze, reserving remainder to serve with fish. Mix the melted butter with 2 tablespoons glaze.

With salmon strips lying skin-sides down, brush flesh side of strips with butter-glaze mixture. Drive skewers lengthwise through salmon strips.

Grill skewers for 5 to 7 minutes total, rotating them continuously. Salmon is done when it just flakes. Serve with reserved glaze.

Makes 4 salmon sticks.

Recipe from “Grill Fire: 100 + Recipes & Techniques for Mastering the Flame,” by Lex Taylor (Sterling Epicure, $24.95).

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