I was in Alaska, eating dinner at a fisherman’s home. I was blown away by my first bite of salmon. I looked over at my husband, and he had the same look — was it awe? — on his face. This was the best, freshest, most spectacular salmon we’d ever eaten. Duh. We were in Cordova, on the Copper River, and that fish was fresh out of the water. We said as much to our host, who listened to us rave about the advantage of eating fish that had just been caught. With a little twinkle in his eye, he said, “Yes, it’s true. Nothing like it. But this fish is straight out of my freezer. I caught it last year.”
Salmon, like many fish, freezes well. (I don’t know why my mother would never freeze fish, but I grew up with the misconception that only beef and poultry could be frozen.) Wild salmon freezes a little better for longer than farmed, because wild has a lower fat content. (Higher fat foods tend to have greater texture changes when frozen).
As a result of wild salmon’s lower fat content, you also need to pay closer attention to cooking time. Fattier farmed salmon stays moist even when overcooked, but leaner wild salmon dries out. So how do you know when salmon is cooked? Not by color! Wild salmon may be pink, white, or deep orange, and cooking time doesn’t change that. When you think the salmon is cooked, use the tip of your knife to peek into the center of the thickest piece. When you see just a little bit of translucent flesh deep inside, take the pan off the heat. You have cooked it the maximum amount of time you should, even if you like it to be absolutely, thoroughly cooked through. (It can be cooked less, just not more.) By the time you serve it, the translucency will be gone but the salmon will still be moist and tender. If you keep going, the fish will be dry.
When it comes to nutrition, there are a couple of points to consider. Farmed salmon is slightly higher in beneficial omega 3 fats– and also in saturated fat and calories. When it comes to unhealthful contaminants and pollutants, it really depends on the pollutants in the water in which the salmon swims. Both wild and farmed may contain what are deemed to be safe levels of contaminants, but generally speaking, wild salmon has lower levels.
Bottom Line: studies show that eating moderate amounts of any salmon is more beneficial than not eating it at all. The healthiest thing to do is to eat a variety of seafood and fish, and part of that variety can include alternating between wild and farmed salmon.
Salmon with Baby Bok Choy and Radishes
If you are unaccustomed to cooking with radishes, you are in for a treat. When baby bok choy isn’t around, split baby romaine hearts or broccollini make lovely stand-ins.
4 6-ounce pieces wild salmon filet
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup lower sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
¼ cup white wine
1 teaspoon country style Dijon mustard
4 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
½ cup thinly sliced radishes
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced (lengthwise)
- Season the fish on both sides with the salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet until it just begins to shimmer. Add the fish skin (or skinned) side down and cook until it is well browned, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It will not be fully cooked)
- Add the broth, wine and mustard to the pan; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the bok choy, radishes and garlic; cook 3 minutes until bok choy is lightly browned on the underside. Turn it over and place the fish on top; continue cooking until the bok choy is crisp-tender at the base and the fish is barely translucent in the center, about 2-4 minutes more.
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional analysis for each serving: 263 calories, 36 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 524 mg sodium
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