Category Archives: Salmon

Ikura

ikura1With nearly 7 million pink salmon forecasted to return to Puget Sound rivers this year, just about everyone I know has been hitting the beaches with pink fever. Earlier in the month I spoke with David Hyde at KUOW about the many charms of pinkies, traditionally the least appreciated of our five Pacific salmon species. Since then I’ve nearly filled my catch card—and the freezer, with a year’s supply of smoked salmon.

Today I searched this blog for a salmon caviar recipe and was surprised I’d never posted one. I’ve been curing salmon roe for years, ever since my pal Beedle (of Fat of the Land fame) showed me how more than a decade ago. Alas, it’s been a year since my last caviar session and Beedle’s notes have gone missing, so I took to the Web—and I’m glad I did.

I found this post by someone named Marc at No Recipes. To separate salmon eggs from their skeins, I’ve always used the warm water method. Though it works, it’s messy and time-consuming, and the act of picking out all those nasty little bits of skein deserves to have its own ring in Hell. Instead I gave Marc’s method a try…and I’m here to tell you it works. I found a wire cooling rack, the sort you might use for cookies hot out of the oven, and placed it over a large mixing bowl. Next I opened up the skeins and ran them back and forth over the rack. The eggs fell easily into the bowl. Besides doing the job quickly with minimal wastage, the process is an object lesson in the durability of salmon eggs. They’re tough! Nature takes care of its own, if we let it.

After separating the eggs, I rinsed them in a wire mesh strainer with cold tap water and then adapted Marc’s recommended ikura recipe rather than making my usual salt brine. Because I was using smaller pink salmon skeins, and because I didn’t have any sake on hand, I halved his recipe and used aji-mirrin in place of sugar and sake.

3/4 cup dashi *
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp aji-mirrin
2 tsp kosher salt
2 small skeins salmon roe

* For making homemade dashi, see my post on Oyster Mushroom Udon.

1. Peel open egg skein with fingers. Separate salmon eggs from skeins by rubbing the open end of the skein across a wire cooling rack.

2. Mix curing ingredients together in a bowl and add the eggs. Refrigerate overnight, curing from 12 to 24 hours.

3. Drain. Ikura will keep in a refrigerated glass jar for several days.

I’ve eaten variations of salmon caviar and ikura made from every species of Pacific salmon. They’re all good. Chum salmon eggs are especially beloved in Japan, but pinks have their own merits. The briny goodness of cured salmon eggs popping in your mouth is one of the great culinary delights—and a good reason to go catch a salmon.

Smoked Salmon Candy

candy2Last week I was forced to play the bi-annual standup freezer defrosting game. My freezer cost me zero dollars to haul away from some guy’s basement, but you get what you pay for, and in this case it has a couple dents in the upper left corner that prevent a perfect seal when the door is closed, and though I solved this problem with stick-on insulation strips, over the course of a year or two, ice gathers in this corner until it overwhelms the whole freezer ecosystem and the entire thing begins to accumulate a layer of snowy frost.

The defrosting requires multiple pots of boiling water to steam out the ice and a little chiseling with a claw hammer. Meanwhile, all my wild food waits patiently in four coolers before it can be re-stacked in the freezer.

This is a good opportunity to take stock. I found frozen packages of stinging nettles from 2010; into the trash they went, sadly. The half-quart tubs of salmon stock went happily in the trash; frozen salmon stock is nasty, friends, and the fresh stuff isn’t much better, I’ve decided, with only limited applications.

Speaking of salmon, I’ve got more than a hundred pounds of kings, silvers, and pinks in the freezer, mostly kings from some very successful fishing trips on the Oregon Coast this summer. I went through my vacuum-sealed packages and found a few with air pockets and less than ideal seals. These had developed some frost inside, and I could see the beginnings of freezer burn. Time to make smoked salmon candy.

5 lbs salmon collars, bellies, or fillets cut into strips

Dry brine:

1 cup pickling salt (or regular, non-iodized)
4 cups dark brown sugar

Glaze:

1/4 cup maple sugar
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup Grand Marnier

1. Mix the dry brine. My standard brine is a 1:4 ratio of salt to brown sugar for a 12 hour brine. Often I’ll add a whole head of chopped garlic and fresh ground pepper to this, and sometimes other spices as well. For salmon candy, I keep it simple: just salt and dark brown sugar.

2. Prepare the salmon. Remove pin bones with pliers and cut fillets into strips (with a large chinook, my strips are 2 to 3 inches wide).

3. Pack the salmon pieces with dry brine in a non-reactive (e.g., Pyrex) dish, skin up for a single layer. If stacking fish in more than one layer, place first layer skin down and second layer skin up, so the fish is flesh to flesh, why the dry brine packed between. Brine overnight or 12 hours. The brine will be soupy by the end.

4. Remove salmon pieces from dish and rinse with cold water under tap. Place skin down on wire racks to dry for 2 to 4 hours. Don’t cheat on this step. It’s important to let the fish dry and firm up; the exterior should be tacky, not wet. A pellicle forms, which helps retain moisture and flavor during the smoking process. I speed up this step up with an electric fan, but it still takes at least a couple hours.

5. Smoke the salmon in your usual way, low and slow if possible. I use a Weber Bullet, which is a hot smoker, meaning the heat from the fire and not just the smoke contributes to the cooking and smoking process, so I try to keep my bed of coals fairly small and heavily damped down. The temperature ranged from 125 to 150 degrees for the first three hours, and then 100 degrees for the last two hours. Cherry or apple wood is good (I used apple this time). A long, low smoke is preferable, especially for candy. While the fish is smoking, brush on glaze periodically, once an hour or so.

 

Merry Pinkmas!

photoI wrote about the Pink Invasion in the July issue of Seattle Magazine. Truth be told, since that article first appeared I’ve been too busy fishing for pinks to do much blogging. Fishing…and filleting, brining, and smoking. Repeat. My freezer is rapidly accumulating a two-year supply of smoked salmon.

This is a fishery that hardly existed a generation ago in Puget Sound. As such, in this age of general decline, it feels like a special gift. And it’s not too late to get in on the action. Read the article and then check out these tips for smokin’ yer own.

Salmon Head Curry

A hard-won spring chinook salmon is so tasty it would be a crime to leave any scraps of meat uneaten. This spicy Indian curry will have you reconsidering what you do with those leftover salmon heads. Crab bait? I think not…

Salmon heads of all species have plenty of choice bits, including the cheeks and collars. Soup is a popular way to use them. Like whole spot shrimp in the shell, salmon heads can both flavor a stock and add a surprisingly large amount of meat to the meal—and with the help of a fine mesh strainer, you don’t have to stare your catch in the face. But you can also simmer the head in a curry and then lift it out before serving to your more squeamish guests, returning all the fall-off-the-skull meat to the dish, with nary an eyeball in sight.

Fish Head Curry is a popular dish in southern India and elsewhere on the subcontinent and Asia. Recipes for fish curry powder are as varied and fought over as red sauces for pasta. You can mix up your own or use a prepared blend. If the latter, make sure you choose a reputable brand with fresh, pungent spices (it won’t be cheap).

I picked a middle path, using a ready-made curry powder but also spiking the dish with fresh turmeric, fenugreek, black mustard, chili powder, and cumin seeds. I encourage my readers to try this curry. You’ll never toss another salmon head. And the crabs can eat chicken gizzards!

1 medium to large salmon head, gills removed and cut in half
1 tsp black mustard seed (or yellow)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fenugreek seed
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 – 3 tbsp fish curry powder*
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb ginger, peeled and minced
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp tamarind paste, mixed with 1/2 cup water **
2 Asian eggplant, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 3-inch pieces
3 tomatoes, cut into sixths
1 cup coconut cream
1 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
cilantro for garnish

* Make your own fish curry powder, or visit an Indian grocery or spice shop for a prepared blend.
** Available at Asian market or Indian grocery.

1. Mix chili powder, turmeric, and fish curry powder with a little water to make a thick masala paste.

2. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add mustard seed, cumin seed, and fenugreek seed and sauté until they begin to crackle and pop, about a minute.

3. Add masala paste, stirring, until fragrant, another minute or so. Add garlic, ginger, and onions, and cook together until onions are soft.

4. Pour in tamarind mixture and bring to boil. Add tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. Cook a couple minutes before adding both halves of salmon head. (Add more water if necessary, though note that the vegetables and fish will add to liquid as they cook.) Spoon curry over salmon, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover for 5 minutes.

5. Stir in coconut cream, brown sugar, and fish sauce, careful not to disturb fish. Cook another couple minutes until fish is done yet still tender. At this point, if you’re serving squeamish guests, you can separate the salmon meat from the skin and cartilage. Maybe leave in one eyeball for a lucky diner. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

The King of Salmon

A few weeks ago I made a pilgrimage to the Columbia River to pay my respects to the king of spring.

Not to be confused with those porcini mushrooms also called “spring kings,” Columbia River spring Chinook—or springers—are some of the first returning among the Pacific salmon, and many piscivores consider them the best tasting of all the many races and runs of salmon.

Taste is largely subjective, sure, but there’s science behind this conceit. Salmon spawn in the fall and early winter. Because springers enter fresh water so early and must hold on for months before spawning—without eating—these particular fish have evolved to be especially fatty. They survive on their impressive fat stores, and we all know that fat means flavor, right?

The Columbia River spring Chinook fishery is limited and tightly regulated. Anglers can fish the main stem in a few spots as well as tributaries such as the Willamette and Cowlitz. We fished Drano Lake, one of the better known hot spots for springers. Drano is a manmade lake created by the fill left over from the construction of Bonneville Dam. The Little White Salmon River flows into the lake, making it noticeably colder than the mainstem river, so salmon and steelhead nose into it during their upstream migrations for a refreshing breather. The bulk of the fishery is at the lake’s outlet, near a railroad trestle and highway 14 bridge.

We got on the water around 5:15 a.m.—and we weren’t alone. The spring king fishery attracts plenty of early risers hoping to put a slab of deep red salmon fillet on the barbecue. Slowly we trolled across the placid waters of Drano Lake, pulling plugs. By 6:30 it was clear that the bite was not on in the lake, so we joined the “toilet bowl” of boats circling the outlet channel where salmon are forced into a narrow channel as they enter and leave the lake.

We switched to bait: cured shrimp and herring, fished at a depth of about 24 feet to avoid snags on the bottom. Though salmon don’t actively feed once on the spawning grounds, they can still be provoked to strike at a bait or lure—whether out of territoriality or some memory of their predatory oceanic life, no one really knows. We settled into the somnolent rhythm of the counter-clock “toilet bowl” slow-dance. The first hit, at noon, startled me out of my seat. I grabbed the rod and tried to keep the fish away from the other boats. It took line at will. When we had it close to the boat the nerve-wracking moment commenced (we saw more than one lost at the boat during the day). The king got a look and spooked. It ran under the boat and I had to fight it in close with a distressingly bowed rod tip. A couple more short runs and we got it sideways and in the net.

Phil at Mystical Legends provided excellent guiding. Though it was a slow day overall, we got another strike a few hours later and boated that fish too, going two for two, which isn’t a bad hook-to-land ratio when it comes to spring kings. Back home, the first taste was simple, as it should be, to allow the salmon to shine: grilled with a little olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. With a fish of this caliber you want to savor every last shred of meat from nose to tail. In my next post I’ll have a recipe for Salmon Head Curry that will have you second-guessing your choice of crab bait.

Oven-roasted Salmon with Herb Risotto and Olive-Tomato Tapenade

Fishing for silvers off Seattle has been good for the last couple weeks, and with the larger ocean-going fish now returning to Puget Sound, it’s getting better. I lost a 10-pounder at the boat the other day. Most of the fish are the smaller resident coho, averaging four to five pounds.

Apparently there was some good action for kings earlier in the summer, too—until it got shut down—but I still think of silvers as our bread-and-butter fish. They’re aggressive (i.e. susceptible to a fly or lure), they forage close to shore, and their bright red fillets are perfect for a quick grilling or oven-roasting.

Call me a Homer, but catching salmon within city limits is one of the great things about living in Seattle. It’s a sweet feeling to get up early before work, or knock off work early, and string up the rod. Then, when you come home with a nice fish, you can say you’ve been working—you’re putting food on the table.

For this dinner, I first scanned the garden: tomatoes and herbs were going crazy. I made a simple herb risotto using mostly marjoram and oregano plus a little thyme, and both cherry and roma tomatoes went into the tapenade. The salmon was oven-roasted and served over the risotto with a dollop of tapenade on top.

Herb Risotto

6 tbsp butter, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp saffron threads
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 – 5 cups chicken broth
4 tsp fresh mixed herbs, chopped

1. Stir saffron into cup of wine and set aside.
2. Warm chicken stock in a pot.
3. Saute onion and garlic in half the butter over medium heat until translucent.
4. Stir in rice, coating well. Allow to toast for a few minutes.
5. Add wine. Let it bubble up and absorb into rice before stirring.
6. Continue to add a ladleful or two of warm stock until rice is done. It should be both creamy and al dente.
7. Off heat, stir in remaining butter and herbs. Cover.

Olive-Tomato Tapenade

1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 roma tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp capers
1/4 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
dash balsamic vinegar, to taste

1. Saute shallot and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
2. Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down.
3. Add lemon zest, capers, olives, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, and add a little balsamic.
4. Reduce to low heat and cook together for a few minutes. Serve warm.

Save Bristol Bay

Now is the time to stand up for salmon, grizzly bears, the 10,000-year-old cultures of Native Alaskans, and one of North America’s signature ecosystems.

Please, if you enjoy this blog and what it means to savor our wild places, take a moment to add your name to the many who are trying to save Bristol Bay and stop Pebble Mine.

The proposed mine would be in the headwaters of the greatest salmon-producing watershed in the world, a place of unparalleled natural value and unbroken ecological processes. The rivers that empty into Bristol Bay, Alaska, nurture more salmon than anywhere else on Earth. All five species of Pacific salmon spawn in the system, as well as trout and char. Bears, moose, caribou, and a host of other large mammals thrive here. It’s a landscape of stunning beauty.

Ten billion tons of toxic mine tailings are not compatible with this ecosystem.

Tailings dams bigger than Grand Coulee Dam in the Bristol Bay headwaters, an active seismic zone, are not compatible with this ecosystem.

The EPA recently released its draft assessment, suggesting that environmental degradation, should the mine proceed, is likely, even imminent. The EPA has the authority under 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to put a stop to this nonsense. Pebble Mine supporters are on the ropes. It’s time to knock them out for good. Tell the EPA and your elected officials NO PEBBLE MINE. Time is running out for public input. This is the final week to let your voice be heard.

For more information:

In late May I attended the first public hearing on the issue, held in Seattle. The room was packed, and then the overflow room was packed. In all, I counted more than 400 people in attendance, and according to this summary, more than 80 percent of the speakers supported the EPA and its draft assessment. (More than 90% in the Bristol Bay regional hearings were in support.)

The comment period (2 minutes per person) included testimonies from Native American subsistence fishermen, commercial fishermen from Washington State and Alaska, local businesses and tour operators, and those who simply love our last wild places and want to protect them. The few speakers in favor of the mine could only summon feeble arguments based on speculative profits that don’t take into account the endless years of publicly-funded cleanup associated with the usual mega-mine boondoggles.

It’s time to say NO to greed, environmental devastation, and bowing down at the material altar. Sign this petition to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. President Barack Obama. If you’re an angler, you can sign this Trout Unlimited petition and let your voice be heard. Haven’t you had enough of these business-as-usual scams already?

Photo at top: Ben Knight

Camper’s Fettuccine Alfredo with Smoked Salmon & Asparagus

Any idea what this is?

Okay, let’s take a step back for a better look.

Yes, it’s my smoker. I think I may be in lurve with it. Smoked food is good food. Smoke up a whole chicken and you might never roast one again. Pork shoulder, brisket, oysters—it’s all good, as the kids say.
And nothing beats smoked salmon. This is how I eat salmon year-round. Brined, smoked, and vacuum-packed. You can keep it in your freezer for a long time, too. Truth be told, we still have a few packages left over from the epic pink run of oh-nine. This year’s run was just as big and I put more poundage away for a rainy day.
The pink salmon is an ideal fish for kids. They’re eager biters and small enough—usually around five pounds—to be landed on light tackle. This year’s run had some noticeably bigger fish. I netted one pushing 10 pounds, and my boy lost a monster at the beach.
One of my kids’ favorite camp meals is Tuna Noodle Surprise. We gussied up this classic comfort meal with pink salmon right out of the smoker, fresh fettuccine, alfredo sauce, and asparagus. 
9oz fresh fettuccine
1/4 lb (or more) smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 lb asparagus, cut into 3-inch segments
4 tbsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan
fresh-ground black pepper
grated nutmeg to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and whisk in cream. Reduce until slightly thickened. Add smoked salmon and several grindings of pepper to sauce. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add asparagus to boiling pasta water for last minute or two of cooking, depending on thickness of asparagus. Drain pasta and asparagus. Toss in large bowl with the sauce, salmon, and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and a few grindings of nutmeg.
This can all be accomplished quite handily on a Coleman two-burner camp stove. Heck, you could make it on a single-burner stove. The salmon smokes up easier at home when you have a couple hours to kill and a six-pack of Rainier, but even that task could probably be managed on the camp stove with a sheet of aluminum foil and a few twigs of green alder. Eating well in camp is an art form, after all.

High Tide Soup

Recently I had the pleasure of hanging out with a couple mad scientists of the kitchen in Washington’s San Juan Islands. Eric (besides being an ’80s pop aficionado and rapper-in-training) is a sous chef at Blueacre Seafood in Seattle and Scott is a software developer by day and the proprietor of the restlessly inventive Seattle Food Geek blog the rest of the time. It was my job to supply these two gastronomic alchemists with foraged wild foods so they could do their culinary magic.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’m mostly about comfort food, the kind you can make in your own kitchen without an arsenal of specialized tools and exotic ingredients. I don’t pretend to be a trained chef or a molecular gastronaut. But I like to eat, and I’m open to all forms of eating. On Lopez Island Eric turned me on to a soup he likes to call High Tide because it evokes the sea with all its shifting flotsam and jetsam.

Despite the “high concept” appearance, this dish is right in my wheelhouse. First of all, it takes the principles of nose to tail eating, which we generally associate with landed livestock, to the oceans, where most of our prey is still wild yet diminishing. The backbone of the soup, so to speak, is the backbone of a salmon, the sort of leftover piece that usually gets chucked in the trash if not used for crab bait. Not in my house. It was the backbone of a silver salmon that supplied the meat for the risotto Hank Shaw made at my house, and my Salmon Head Soup distinguished itself enough to be included in the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook.

This time around the salmon was a pink, or humpy, as it’s also known, and its backbone was the key ingredient in a satisfyingly complex salmon broth. A quick word on pinks: at one time, when the rivers of the Northwest teemed with salmon, the pink was reviled in comparison to its more toothsome cousins, the chinook, sockeye, and silver. Now it’s the most plentiful wild salmon species in Puget Sound and demands our gustatory attention. Though not as versatile as its fattier relatives, pinks are still worthy with the right preparation.

The “meat” of the soup was entirely vegetarian—and terrestrial at that. Looking like weird sea creatures washed in by the tide, the leek bottoms and carrot tops, like the salmon backbone, are the sort of things that usually get tossed away. Shaved red cabbage completed the picture. I butter-poached these vegetables in clarified butter for a good 20 minutes or so, until the carrots were tender and the leeks and cabbage slightly caramelized with hints of brown.

It’s impossible to overstate how impressed I was by this soup. The tidal broth was a hit of umami—not too fishy, with an earthy balance of leek flavor—while the sea creatures within absolutely bursted with flavor from the butter-poaching. The carrots tasted like the best sort of stewed carrot and the leek bottoms had a toastiness that was almost as unexpected as the chewy texture of the tentacles…err…roots.

This will be a dish that I serve at the next dinner party.

The Tide

2 small to medium salmon backbones (or 1 large)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, just green tops, chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
1 quart water
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until softened. Add water and heat to a low simmer. Add the salmon backbones, leeks, and parsley. Do not allow to boil. Cook at least 2 hours. Adjust seasoning. Strain soup through colander and again through fine mesh and cheesecloth, until clear. Return to pot. Add thinly sliced rounds of leek bulb and keep warm until ready to serve. Cooking the broth at low heat will prevent it from being too fishy, while the leeks—both the green tops and white slices—will balance the flavor, amplifying the wonderfully comfortable umami.

The Sea Creatures

1 stick butter
3 leek bottoms, with roots, rinsed
4-5 carrot tops, with green nub
1 handful shaved red cabbage

Clarify the butter, then in a small sauce pan butter-poach the leek bottoms, carrot tops, and red cabbage for 20 minutes or so, until the cabbage is starting to brown at the edges and the carrots and leeks are tender. Use tongs to turn the vegetables periodically.

Plate the butter-poached vegetables in bowls and ladle broth. Serves 2.

This was just one of 10 courses that Eric prepared with Scott’s help in the islands. I’ll be posting more on this extraordinary feast in the future, when the video treatment is edited.

Resident Silvers

Over the years I’ve caught most of my salmon while standing either in a river or on a beach—I’m just too much of a cheapskate to hire a charter. Last week, though, with Hank and Holly in town, I took a rare opportunity to fish for salmon while standing on a boat. Here’s the funny thing: I was standing on a boat within sight of a public beach where I sometimes stand with rod in hand for free.

But don’t get me wrong: the action was all offshore. The boat was a charter out of Shilshole Marina in Seattle operated by Captain Nick Kester of All Star Fishing Charters and the beach was Golden Gardens. Though I didn’t actually get a chance to hoist a rod myself, I watched my boy reel in the first of two silver salmon, which was even better.

Just a week before, Riley was building sand castles with his sister a few hundred yards to the east from where we were now trolling flashers and cut-plugged herring. Most of the year the parking lot at Golden Gardens is near empty, but on sun-splashed summer days the park’s sandy waterfront overflows with Seattlites determined to experience the novelty of a day at the beach. I guess I was a little surprised to find out that more than a few salmon charters work the rips right off that beach, too.

The upside of a charter is that your chances of catching fish are about as good as they get; the downside is that you’ll be catching those fish with the aid of down-riggers, which means you’re mostly reeling. At first Riley was baffled by this unfamiliar setup. After the first rod popped and he was called to duty, he saw the plus side. It’s a fact that a guided charter using down-riggers and fishfinders takes a lot of guesswork out of fishing—and it’s also a fact that the live-wire excitement of having a salmon on the line increases exponentially on most days with such advantages.

Resident silvers (aka coho, Oncorhynchus kisutch) are fish that never leave Puget Sound. They hatch in local rivers, rear in the Sound, and return to those same rivers to spawn. While in the Sound they dine on a diet of amphipods and small bait fish, rarely attaining the size of silvers that leave the Sound altogether for the wilderness of the North Pacific. Those silvers, sometimes called “ocean hooknoses,” can be much larger, with the males displaying deeply kyped jaws.

A devoted band of saltwater fly-fishermen pesters the resident silvers for most of the year. Just about any point of land sticking into the Sound can be a possible fly-fishing spot when a combination of tides and currents brings the feeding fish close to shore. The Tacoma Narrows in particular, with its fast-moving currents, is a place where anglers gather to cast from the beach. In spring the resident silvers are trout-sized; as the summer wears on they put on weight and look more like salmon fit for a barbecue, albeit on the small side; by early fall the fish are in a feeding frenzy, a last-ditch effort to fatten up before the spawn. This is when most beach fishermen seek them out. By then the resident silvers are about as big as they’ll get, usually in the four or five-pound range, and the ocean silvers are just arriving, giving the angler a shot at a 12-pounder.

To be honest, fishing for resident silvers with all the advantages of boat, down-rigger, and bait felt a little dirty. In retrospect we probably should have asked the captain to motor a dozen extra miles out to the chinook grounds, where the fish and tackle are more suitably matched. But like a good captain, his first concern was getting his clients—which numbered two Californians prohibited by law in their own state from fishing depleted stocks of silvers—into fish.

That night we ate grilled salmon over risotto in nose-to-tail fashion. Meat from the salmon cheeks went into the risotto, as did the roe. The carcasses made a wonderful broth, some of which we used for the risotto while the rest went into the freezer. Hank had some very nice saffron on hand to tart up the risotto along with white wine, Walla Walla sweet onion, English shelling peas, and lemon zest. A fitting feast after a good afternoon on the water.

Photo at top and second from top by Holly Heyser.