Eating fish once or twice a week is really good for your heart. Ocean-caught salmon is high in protein and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Salmon is a good source of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids which medical research indicates may reduce the risk of heart disease.
But beware – Atlantic salmon may be high in mercury, PCBs or dioxin. Albacore tuna also gets this warning for pollutants. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children should not eat Atlantic salmon and many other types of fish including shark, swordfish, tilefish or king mackerel. The FDA and Environmental Protection Agency warn not to eat the same kind of fish more than once a week to avoid excess mercury.
The GOOD news: All wild salmon from Alaska (pink, coho, chum, chinook and sockeye), fresh, canned or frozen are free of contamination warnings. So are many other fish including Alaska black cod, Atlantic mackerel, farmed oysters and striped bass, North Atlantic shrimp, Canadian snow crab, Florida stone crabs and sardines.
Crispy salmon skin is a treat in Japan-there is a special sushi roll that includes it. The skin tastes delicious but remove it if you prefer.
Types of Pacific Salmon
Chinook: Spring or king salmon. The largest can run over 35 pounds. Prized by gourmets, its firm flesh can range from ivory white to deep red. The higher the oil content, the more flavorful and moist the cooked fish will be. This salmon has a rich, buttery flavor.
Sockeye: Prized in Japan. Its deep-red, firm flesh gives it the name of red salmon when canned. An exquisitely rich flavor due to the high concentration of oils. Excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. The bright color is retained after cooking. The flesh is somewhat firmer than King salmon. Some consider Sockeye to be the most flavorful of all salmon species
Coho: Known as silver salmon in Alaska; an excellent game fish. Full flavour with fine-texture and consistently red flesh. The bright color is retained after cooking. A favourite fish for smoking because of its high oil content and reddish-orange flesh. Great for grilling and broiling. Slightly milder-tasting than Sockeye.
Pink: Pink are the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific species, often known as a ‘humpy’ from the hump it develops on its back at spawning time. The flesh is light pink in colour and delicately flavoured. Three quarters of harvested pinks are canned; the most common salmon species found on grocery store shelves. The rest is sold fresh or frozen in markets. Low to moderate oil content.
Chum: Milder, more delicate flavour, with flesh ranging from creamy pink to medium red. It is especially low in saturated fat. Known as ‘dog salmon” because it’s large teeth while spawning. Pale color, less flavorful with the lowest oil content of all the salmons.
BASIC PAN-SEARED SALMON
A good rule for cooking fish is 10 minutes cooking time for every inch of thickness. This should produce a perfectly done fillet or steak every time.
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, with skin ( 1 to 1-1/4 inches thick)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons safflower or canola oil
Sprinkle salmon with salt and ground black pepper. Heat a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet 2 to 3 minutes over high heat. Add oil. Swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add fish fillets, skin side down. Cook fillets on high heat about 30 seconds then reduce heat slightly. Cook about 4 minutes or until skin is browned and bottom half of fish seems cooked. Turn fillets. Cook about 3-1/2 additional minutes for medium done. For well-done, cook 2 minutes more. If the fish seems to be splattering quite a bit, you can cover it with a splatter screen. Remove fillets and let them rest 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh lemon or lime slices or one of the suggestions below.
Sauces and Flavor Ideas:
Miso Glaze: After the fish is turned to the second side, brush tops with a mixure of 2 tablespoons each miso paste, brown sugar, sherry and 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger or ginger juice.
Wasabi Cream Sauce: Mix 1 cup sour cream with 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly prepared wasabi, to taste. Served with pan-seared fish.
Lemon Butter Sauce: Mix 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic. Begin brushing on fish after fillets are turned to the second side.
Horseradish Marmalade: Mix 1/2 cup orange marmalade with 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish. Brush on fish fillets after pan-seared.
Dill Butter: Melt 4 tablespoons butter and add 1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill. Drizzle over pan-seared fillets.
Cucumber Lime Sauce: Blend 1/2 cup seeded, grated cucumber with 1 cup sour cream, 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 small minced green onion, salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve with pan-seared fillets.
Quick Mango Salsa: Combine 2 peeled, diced mangoes, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/3 cup fresh lime juice or orange juice, 1/2 cup diced red onion, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve with pan-seared fish.
Sesame Salmon: Dip seasoned fillets into sesame seeds before searing. Drizzle with a few drops of toasted Asian sesame oil and lemon juice after pan-searing.