It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holidays—it’s salmon season!
From early summer through fall, wild-caught Pacific salmon makes an appearance in most grocery stores, so now is the ideal time for you to head over to your local food markets and stock up.
What’s the Deal With Wild Caught Salmon in Season?
Most of the salmon sold in today’s grocery stores is farmed, which means they are fed a diet of fishmeal instead of the plants and algae their wild counterparts enjoy. In addition to an inferior diet, being raised in a confined space means they’re susceptible to illness and disease. (There are greater safety measures being enacted everyday, however, that reduce the chance of transmitting food borne illnesses to those who do eat farmed salmon.)
While I do understand that wild-caught salmon is not economical for everyone, I highly suggest budgeting for it while it’s in season. That’s when you’re likely to get great sales on the wild varieties.
What Are the Benefits of Salmon?
I learned the dietary benefits of salmon after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When I sat down with a nutritionist to go over any changes that I should make to my diet, I discovered that many people who are battling MS are also Vitamin D deficient and I was no exception.
This poses a problem for many people—especially women—because it means that my body doesn’t absorb calcium as well as it should. Lack of calcium absorption leads to osteoporosis, which causes brittle bones that break easily.
None of that was appealing to me, so we looked for ways to add more vitamin D to my diet. One big way is through salmon, which has an obscene amount of vitamin D! It’s healthy for me, and it tastes good? Sign me up!
How Much Salmon Should You Buy per Person?
The recommended portion size for salmon is 2 1/2 ounces for an adult. I tend to round up to 3 ounces because my family loves to eat. However, because this particular recipe is more of a pasta meal, anywhere between 2 1/2 to 3 ounces will be a suitable size per person.
If you’re cutting the fillets from a larger piece, the length of your thumb is a good guide to figuring out how wide you should cut each piece.
Ask the Fishmonger to Remove the Scales
Some fish departments don’t always scale (scrape the scales off) their fish without being asked to. You definitely don’t want to eat fish that hasn’t been scaled, and since we’re not skinning our salmon, make sure you ask your fishmonger to scale your fillet.
They’re usually gracious about doing it because it’s a messy pain to do at home, so be sure to ask.
How to Remove the Pin Bones From Salmon
The only downside to salmon that I’ve found are the little pin bones that you may discover after you’ve gotten your fillets home from the store—just a minor inconvenience. Even though our local fishmongers may do their very best, sometimes those little guys slip past them.
These bones should always be removed because they can, and will, get stuck in your throat (or your child’s throat) and cause some serious issues. (If you or one of your diners happens to get a bone stuck in your throat, coughing aggressively will usually dislodge it. However, if one begins choking on a fishbone, call 911 immediately.)
To find and remove the little buggers, just run your fingers down the length of the salmon fillet. The pin bones will feel like hard bumps just under the surface of the salmon. If you feel one, push it up gently to expose the tip of it. Using a pair of pin bone tweezers (or even clean eyebrow tweezers), grip the end of the pin bone and pull it in the direction it is pointing.
Don’t jerk it back or twist it because you’ll dislodge (and lose) some of the flesh with it. Pulling forward at the same angle it’s already growing in should remove it cleanly.
How Long Can You Freeze Salmon?
If you find wild salmon on sale, buy as much as you can and freeze what you won't use right away.
I have a handy vacuum sealer that I use to marinate and seal salmon fillets that I purchase in bulk when my local grocer has sales on it. Fatty fish such as salmon will freeze well for two to three months, so there’s no reason not to stock up.
I’m a Sockeye lover, but I also recommend King (or Chinook) salmon if you can’t find the former. Sockeye is beautiful, deep red-orange in color with a flavorful, leaner flesh. The King salmon has a lighter orange appearance and the highest fat content of all the salmon species.
More Ways to Enjoy Salmon!
Angel Hair Pasta with Salmon, Arugula, and Creamy Lemon-Parmesan Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated
- 6 salmon fillets (2 1/2 to 3 ounces each, about 1 to 1 1/4 pounds total), preferably wild-caught King or Sockeye salmon
- 2 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 1 pound angel hair pasta
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine or seafood stock
- Juice and rinds of 2 lemons (1/3 to 1/2 cup juice)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 ounces arugula (4 packed cups)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Warm your oven:
Set the oven to its lowest setting (mine is 150°F) to keep the salmon warm once it's cooked.
Start the water for pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Season the salmon fillets:
Rub both sides of the fillets with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and a 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.
Sear the salmon:
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick). Once the oil starts to ripple in the pan, place the salmon fillets into the pan, skin-side up.
Press the fillets down gently to make sure the entire surface makes contact with the pan. Sear the salmon fillets for 3 minutes, or until the flesh turns an opaque pink 1/4 of the way up the sides of the fillets.
Flip the salmon and keep it hot:
Use a spatula to flip the salmon and sear it, skin-side down, for an additional 3 minutes.
Transfer the fillets to a sheet pan and place them in the heated oven while you finish the dish. It’s okay if the salmon is not cooked completely through just yet—it will continue to cook in the oven.
Cook the shallot and deglaze the pan:
In the same pan you used to sear the salmon, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and the garlic to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes, or until glossy and fragrant.
Pour the white wine and lemon juice into the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits of food that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the lemon halves and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce the sauce and cook the pasta:
Reduce the sauce in the pan by half by maintaining a boil. This should take 3 to 4 minutes.
Cook the pasta:
By now, your pasta water should be at a rolling boil. Add generous tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and drop the pasta into the middle of the pot. Stir the pasta immediately to separate the noodles.
Lower the temperature slightly to prevent the water from boiling over and cook the pasta for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente (or according to package directions). Drain the pasta.
Finish the sauce:
Once the liquid in the pan has reduced by half, reduce the heat to medium-low. Remove the lemon halves. Slowly stir in the heavy cream and the remaining butter.
Allow the sauce to come to a simmer, then add the arugula. Stir to coat the arugula in the sauce and allow it to wilt slightly—this should only take a minute or so. Add the Parmesan, along with the remaining salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, by adding a bit more salt or pepper.
Combine the pasta and sauce:
Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss in the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated.
Serve the pasta with the salmon:
Remove the warm salmon fillets from the oven and arrange on top of the pasta. Serve immediately. While this dish is best enjoyed the same day it’s made, we have had success with reheating the leftovers in the microwave the next day.