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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Semi Steamed Salmon:Recipe

Wild salmon is in season and it is amazingly good this year. When I was growing up we didn't call it "wild salmon" we called it "pop's-going-fishing-so-we're-probably-having-salmon-for-dinner". If he caught a lot, we took it to a smoke house and made lox. But most often we just ate our fresh delicious salmon and thought little more about it.

But now the source of our fresh salmon is something we need to think about. As salmon has increased in popularity and it has gotten easier to buy inexpensive farmed salmon from Chile, Canada and Norway in the supermarket, the environmental and health costs have risen dramatically. While fish farming may seem sustainable, raising salmon in net pens releases fish waste into the water and can spread disease and parasites to wild salmon, so it may play a role in destroying non-farmed salmon. Even more frightening, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group just last year, seven of ten farmed salmon purchased at grocery stores in Washington DC, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at levels that raise significant health concerns.

Fortunately farms have decreased the use of antibiotics and pesticides that were making headlines a few years back, but for right now, wild salmon is still by far the best best. For more information about which fish is safest for you and for the oceans, download a "Seafood Watch Pocket Guide" compliments of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you've had wild salmon you know how much tastier it is than farmed salmon. It is also more delicate and so cooking it demands a little more care. After experimenting, I have found a technique I like very much. I call it "semi-steaming". This salmon is good with mashed potatoes and is excellent over a salad of mixed greens and chopped Napa cabbage (and an Asian style dressing).

Semi Steamed Salmon
serves 2


1 large wild salmon steak (3/4 lb or so)
2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar (white or brown)
1 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce, any type, optional


Lay the salmon steak on a plate and douse with the soy, most of it will end up on the plate. Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top. If you want to add the chili sauce, spread it on top of the fish as well. Let marinate for 5-10 minutes. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat (one that has a good fitting lid) then spray with cooking oil. Place the fish in the pan sauce carefully, sauce side up, and pour the soy from the plate into the pan. Saute until the soy reduces and the fish begins to sizzle, less than a minute. Add about 1/4 cup water and place a lid over the pan. Simmer the fish with a minimum of water until the water reduces. Add more water as needed to keep the pan from drying out. The fish will cook in less than 10 minutes. When the fish is almost cooked, remove it from the pan to finish cooking with carryover heat. At this point you can reduce the liquid to make more of a glaze, but the fish should be nicely glazed already. Remove any bones from the fish and remove the center bone to separate the 2 halves for serving.