With the end of June approaching quickly, I take pause to consider my summer so far and look back to measure it against summers past. Garden: not an early start this year and the ground is still a little cold, but the garden is looking fantastic and I know it will catch up. Bugs: not too bad yet. Bears: they are everywhere.
Remarkable summery things have already been happening: A pair of gulls has nested in a tree on an island in the middle of the lake at Winterlake Lodge. Whoever heard of that? A charm (that’s the name for a group) of hummingbirds descended upon our back deck at Tutka Bay Lodge and a few are still lingering on to delight us. A bear came up and kissed (really more like licked) our bear carving near the walkway at Redoubt Bay Lodge and an employee caught it on camera. Tiny wonders happen every day, all summer long.
Sockeye, and their annual return to my kitchen, is one particular summer wonder I look forward to each year. Sockeye are the only fish that feed like whales, with their gill rakers open as they swim along, feeding on small plankton. The carotene of small shrimp and krill in the sockeye diet give them that brilliant red color and particular flavor. All that hard work of swimming and eating at the same time, I suppose, gives them that nice firm flesh.
In my commercial kitchen, my stove doesn’t come equipped with a broiler but my friend Greg tells me that he always prefers to broil sockeye. He cooks fish with the skin on and skin-side-up under the broiler so the fat from the skin (and the grey fatty layer between skin and flesh) melts down and “bastes” the fish. It sounds like a good idea — it’s just too bad I don’t have a broiler.
We’ve been saving scraps and trim from filleting whole sockeye salmon to make burgers for our staff dinners. When we make burgers, we can scrape enough flesh from the backbone carcass of the fish with a spoon to add an extra burger or two. We don’t waste a thing. Take a look at the photo included in this article to see how much meat can be salvaged from a discarded salmon carcass. It really is remarkable.
When we make salmon burgers, we puree part of the salmon meat and cube another part of it. This textural variation makes a nice firm burger without having to add any egg or bread filler into the patty. We just add in herbs, seasonings and spices to give our burgers a little zing, shape them, and grill or sauté them. I like red onions, either pickled or grilled, with salmon. We’ve been using smoked paprika from Spain as a nice complement to salmon burgers lately. The lime and cilantro add a refreshing summer touch. We’ve had a little habit lately of making our own root chips and other vegetable crisps to serve with burgers. We’ve been sprinkling dried sea lettuce over our chips as a kind of salty accent.
Don’t forget to look out for those small wonders of summer.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless Alaska sockeye salmon
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 2 tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
- Juice of half a lime
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 pinch smoked paprika
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Dice half of the salmon into ⅛-inch cubes. Puree the other half in a food processor. Combine both the salmons together in a medium bowl.
- Combine together the cilantro, green onion, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and smoked paprika. Add this mixture into the salmon, stirring to gently combine. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
- Shape the salmon into 4 patties and chill until ready to grill or sauté.