Salmon: the versatile fish to eat

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A-glazing: Maple Grilled Salmon with Pecan Butter is a signature salmon dish at Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shops in Portage. | Supplied photo

Islamorada Fish Co.
Maple Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

Four 8-ounce salmon filets, glaze, two cups maple syrup (may substitute maple pancake syrup), four tablespoons of butter, half cup orange juice, quarter cup brown sugar, compound butter, two sticks of butter at room temperature, one tablespoon maple syrup, two teaspoons honey, quarter cup finely chopped pecans, and one or two leaves of julienned basil.

Directions:

To make the glaze combine two cups of maple syrup, along with butter, orange juice and brown sugar in a sauce pan and simmer until it reduces by half. The mixture should be very thick.

To make the compound butter start with two sticks of room temperature butter and mix in a tablespoon of maple syrup, along with honey and pecans until well mixed. Add the basil and mix. Roll into a log and wrap with plastic wrap. Freeze. Leftover compound butter may be stored in the freezer.

To make the dish, grill the salmon starting with presentation side down on a well-oiled grill to create grill marks. Flip the fish and brush with glaze as desired while it finishes cooking. Plate the hot salmon and add a slice or two of the compound butter and serve.

Salmon has become synonymous with health-conscious dining across the country.

Television chefs tout the benefits of adding the easy-to-prepare, high-protein, low-calorie fish into healthy diets. The Dr. Oz show has tagged salmon as one of the “super foods” loaded with nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids that are chock full of so many health benefits we simply cannot eat enough.

“It’s a healthy choice,” said Michelle Hobbs, general manager of the Islamorada Fish Co. inside Bass Pro Shops in Portage.

It is also a local one. Fishermen need go no further than Lake Michigan or some of the local rivers for a chance to hook a salmon or one of its close cousins, the coho salmon or chinook.

Salmon has grown in popularity so much it can be found fresh or frozen in almost every grocery store, warehouse club or big box that sells seafood, a great alternative for landlubbers who want the chance to prepare salmon without the work to catch it themselves.

Flexible fish

Either way Hobbs encourages home cooks to break out of the box and take a chance cooking the versatile fish in a palate-pleasing way.

“There are definitely a million ways to take on salmon,” Hobbs said.

Poached salmon with dill has long graced the menus of high-end restaurants but the fish is much more versatile than that. Its high fat content makes it a great candidate for preparations like grilling, baking and smoking, though Hobbs warns to avoid frying. The high fat content that makes salmon moist in most preparations does not do the same for the flavor with the deep fryer.

Home grillers will find salmon easy to prepare on a well-oiled grill. Hobbs advises cooks to start with the fish flesh side down to achieve grill marks and then flip and finish skin side down. When smoking the fish, experiment with different flavor wood chips like hickory, apple, mesquite and pecan to create a unique flavor you enjoy.

Cedar planking is also a popular preparation.

“Cedar planking is a big thing,” Hobbs said. “It kind of imparts that earthy, richer flavor to it.”

Planks work best when they are well soaked and used on the grill. Place the salmon skin side down on the plank and let it cook.

Salmon has a strong distinct flavor some other fish does not have. While the people who enjoy salmon eat it for that unique taste, some of those who are used to a more mild fish like tilapia or perch may find using a preparation that brings in other flavors a great place to start.

“Some people want something to mellow that flavor a bit,” Hobbs said.

Right now Islamorada signature salmon dish is Maple Grilled Salmon with a Pecan Butter. The sweet glaze and toasted nutty flavor of the butter blend well with the salmon. Hobbs said diners can also have their salmon prepared in any of the fashions the restaurant uses including blackened, roasted garlic, lemon pepper and barbecue.

Salmon has seen a variety of incarnations at the restaurant over the years, spotlighted in dishes including a smoked salmon Caesar salad, a smoked salmon BLT, salmon and corn chowder and a variation on the crab cake, a salmon cake.

Hobbs encourages home cooks to get creative when they plan to cook salmon. Glazes using maple, barbecue and ginger all complement salmon’s robust flavor.

“It will take well to more flavors than you would expect,” Hobbs said.

Better with butter

Compound butters also are nice touch to the finished fish that are easy to make and store well for future use. Start with a stick of room temperature butter and have a little fun.

“You can really do any compound butter,” she said.

Make a savory butter by mixing in herbs your family enjoys like thyme, rosemary or dill, or try a preparation similar to Islamorada and go sweet with a little maple syrup and your favorite toasted nut.

Wrap the butter compound in plastic wrap and roll into a log. Freeze the log and after your fish is grilled, baked, smoked or poached, top it with a slice or two of the butter and let it melt for a delicious sauce.

“Salmon is a lot more versatile than people necessarily think,” she said.