Wild Food: Salmon, Two Ways.

So, there’s some stuff you may not know about me.  Yeah, yeah, I’m a person from Illinois living in Wisconsin, which opens me to all sorts of general harassment (particularly relating to football teams). I grew up in the Land of Lincoln. I also went to college there, fresh out of high school. I then dropped out of said college in the middle of my junior year. And then I just kinda…stuck around. My dad in 2006, and then 2 years later my mom and sister left Illinois to move to Arizona, and then Oregon. I had only extended family in my hometown, so I stayed in my college town, worked as close to full time as I could, and sort of hung out.

That ended up being a lot of food service jobs. My friends and I made trips in to Chicago and its suburbs quite often- the closest Metra stop was only 15 miles away in Elburn, and it was only an hour drive to the Loop.  At some point a boyfriend at the time dragged me into a sushi restaurant for the first time. And that was pretty much it for me- I adore sushi. There was an all-you-can-eat, $17.99-deal sushi place off Dundee Road in Palatine where I ate sushi until I hurt more times than I care to count. The sushi place in Geneva off 64 wasn’t bad.  I went to Jurin on Randall Road in Elgin plenty of times, too. So, when a Japanese restaurant finally opened up out in DeKalb, and we didn’t have to drive 20 miles just to get it, that was really something.

I’d eaten there a handful of times already when I took a job at a specialty grocer. I worked in their deli kitchen, where they catered from. And it was three straight weeks of 12 hour days, with only two days off in the middle. When I asked the owner a question one day, he screamed see-you-next-Tuesday in my face. I walked out, and applied to be a delivery driver at the Japanese place. I started two days later.

I worked there for a year and a half, 45 hours a week, right up until I moved to Wisconsin in early 2011. I learned a lot working there. I learned that even in blind taste tests, I don’t like hog intestine soup. I also learned hibachi cooking and sushi making. I was no sushi chef, but the actual sushi chefs let me play around when it was slow, and I watched them enough to pick up quite a bit. So, when we caught those salmon on Lake Michigan back in August, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do.

Since we were at first undecided on whether to smoke them or grill them, they got frozen together in one bag. As a result, I made so much food tonight that I’m considering giving it away. I first followed this set of instructions  on making sushi rice. I don’t have a rice cooker, and after nearly three years, I was a little rusty on the process. So, while the rice cooked, I cleaned the salmon up- I cut the fillets off the sides, pulled the pin bones, and skinned the ones I was using for sushi.



By then the rice was done, so I stirred and seasoned it according to the instructions. Then I made the teriyaki I was going to use on the cooked salmon. I’m especially proud of this one. It’s a maple-brown sugar teriyaki.

Giant jug of soy sauce from when we still belonged to Costco. Moscato subbed for Mirin.

Giant jug of soy sauce from when we still belonged to Costco. Moscato subbed for Mirin.

I would reserve some of the mixture, and add a couple extra tablespoons of maple syrup to it.

I prefer sashimi over nigiri any day of the week, but I’m a bit leery of just eating Lake Michigan salmon plain. So, I made a couple nigiri, and three rolls. One salmon, avocado, and cucumber, one salmon and spicy mayo avocado, and one with avocado laid over the top, all fancy.

The rice texture was spot on.

The rice texture was spot on.


My first roll was a bit rough.

My first roll was a bit rough.


But I still got it.

But I still got it.

Now, the raw salmon looked orange enough when it was still one piece, but after it was cut up, it was definitely paler. I’m going to guess that since these salmon never make it to the sea, their diet is different enough, and lacking in the krill with the red-orange pigment that they won’t be bright orange. Also, they aren’t fed artificial carotenoids like farmed salmon. Ah well. Sushi finished, I turned to cookery.

Before starting the sushi rolls, I had dipped the salmon I was cooking into the teriyaki mixture, and then refrigerated them to marinate for a bit. At this point, I took them out, placed them in well-oiled cast iron pans, brushed them with the reserved, sweetened teriyaki mix, and put them into a 300F oven.

While the salmon cooked in the oven, I added yet more syrup to the reserved teriyaki mix, and then I put that in a small sauce pan over medium heat to bubble away and reduce to a thicker sauce. I also heated up some oil in my wok, and fried some rice. The salmon was done quickly, and I plated up some for myself and for Matt.



So, I ended up eating a plate of cooked salmon and fried rice, as well as half of the sushi rolls I made. I’m not really too full. I blame it on a hard lower body workout at the gym yesterday, as well as a tough upper body session today causing me to crave some serious food. Ever since I began lifting weights with seriousness, I’ve eaten way, way more. How did it taste? Good. The texture wasn’t as firm as you generally get from salmon you buy, but these fish were caught in late summer- perhaps that had something to do with it. They were also very lean- there wasn’t really any fat layered in the muscle.

I’ve got the other half of my rolls left, as well as a couple teriyaki fillets. And that’s in addition to all the salmon scraps from cleaning the salmon we’d only gutted at the marina. So I’m thinking that in addition to this dinner, I will probably get a fancy version of the canned-salmon patties my mom used to make. I’m also considering trying to use the salmon scraps to make stock- but I have yet to find a recipe.


10 thoughts on “Wild Food: Salmon, Two Ways.

    • Thank you! I have yet to get an old deer with a strong taste. But two years ago, Matt shot a button buck up north that tasted like the pine needles it had been eating. When I cooked that, I had good luck using recipes designed for mutton or lamb. Both of those can have a strong taste. But I’ve lost those recipes since we finished off that little deer. Other wise, I would give Hank Shaw’s venison barbacoa a shot. http://honest-food.net/2013/10/28/barbacoa-recipe-venison/

      If Mexican food isn’t your thing, you could still make it into something like shredded beef, just use the same method, different spices.

  1. Yummy! Your rolls are spot on! We learned how to make epic sushi from living in Hawaii and promptly bought a rice cooker when we moved away. Ever since the Great Food Poisoning of Summer 2013 from eating raw salmon straight from the water right before they run (freezing kills all), we haven’t been able to stomach sushi. We hope to get over it soon. As for your small kings (chinooks), they look lovely as we have some 50 lbs of salmon in our freezer. Kings are not as firm as people think and tend to come in a variety of colors even when caught at sea. Krystin caught a white king once that was so unbelievably delicious. Ah, at this point we can only reminisce about a great summer of salmon fishing….

    • I had read a couple bit on some horrifying-sounding worms that reside in the meat of salmon, that will latch onto the inside of human stomachs for a few days before dying off. I was sufficiently frightened, until it said freezing killed them. Phew- these things have been in the deep freeze since August. Crisis averted. My only fear with these guys is, y’know, mercury and heavy metal poisoning. This used up our salmon from that day of poor fishing. However, we’re hoping to go ice fish on Milwaukee Harbor once it gets good and cold. Lake trout and Coho on the hard water.

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