No wonder there is a species of salmon called King. Salmon, in my humble opinion, is the king of fish. And if salmon is King, then wild Alaskan salmon is the King of Kings. Alaskan King or Chinook salmon is super meaty, succulent, and distinctly flavored. And, there are others. Sockeye is leaner than King, but it has more astaxanthin which is a super-powerful antioxidant.
I simply love the taste of salmon in any form. Sushi, smoked, grilled, sauteed, or cooked into a soup. The possibilities are truly endless.
Moreover, I choose to eat salmon because of its unsurpassed nutritional value. Not only does wild salmon provide protein and good fat, but it is also a prime source of Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids which are so crucial for healthy nutrition. For me, it is a staple of my anti-cancer diet.
The vitamin B12 in salmon keeps blood and nerve cells humming and helps you make DNA. But for your health, the true beauty of salmon is its wealth of omega-3 fatty acids.Web MD
Wild Salmon Nutrition
Let’s see how wild-caught salmon compares to farm-raised salmon.
In terms of nutrition, both types offer pretty much equal amount of protein, around 40g per 200g of salmon fillet. But, wild salmon is generally leaner and less caloric. Wild salmon will have around 13 g of fat and 282 calories as compared to 27 g of fat and 412 calories for the same size farmed salmon fillet. Additionally, the wild salmon (Sockeye) has only 1.9 g saturated fat as opposed to the farmed salmon with 6 g of saturated fat.
This is important especially when consuming salmon as part of a heart-healthy or anti-cancer diet. Saturated fat is definitely not something that these diets call for. When looking for heart-healthy salmon recipes, it always makes sense to invest in wild salmon.
A recent study on the connection between omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease (CVD) demonstrated that the intake of these fatty acids are linked to better cardiovascular health.Medical News Today
My Journey to Wild Alaskan Salmon
I have not lived on the coast until my early 30s. Prior to that time, my knowledge of fish was primarily fish sticks and occasional frozen fillet, usually around Christmas time (fish is really big during Christmas in Poland). The few times I ate salmon, it was the pink kind, probably farm-raised, and I don’t remember it as a memorable experience. In fact, I learned to dislike the taste of salmon for a long while.
Fast forward to a trip to Seattle in the mid-1990s to visit a friend. This was the first time I saw a truly impressive fish market and got to taste Alaskan salmon. It was pan-seared and served over a bed of spinach and accompanied by a glass of buttery Chardonnay. This was a meal to remember. Very simple, and yet, the tastes combined into a symphony of flavors, each complementing the others. I couldn’t believe my taste buds! Since that time I’m in love with Alaska wild-caught salmon and try to cook it at least once a week if not more often.
Where to Get the Best Wild Alaskan Salmon
Unless you live in Alaska, you’ll have to buy your salmon frozen. You can find in at your local fish monger’s, at Costco, or in the Whole Foods Market. I would recommend to buy it frozen rather than thawed. This way, chances are the fish was frozen only once and there is no risk of it being spoiled.
I used to buy my salmon in a store until I discovered an Alaskan fishermen co-op that delivers sushi-grade wild Alaskan salmon to my door: Alaska Gold Brand.
The fish is flash-frozen right on the boat, packed with dry eyes, and delivered to any place within the USA in a matter of days. You can buy a few fillets or you can buy in bulk, 5 or 10 pounds at once. The more you buy the better the price of course.
What I like to buy is a pack called the fishermen’s locker. Basically it is a 5- or 10-lb pack of salmon fillets that are slightly less regular size or shape. The taste is the same as the “pretty” fillets, but the price point is much better. BTW, if you are interested in trying them out, feel free to use this code for 10% off your order. If you do, I might get a small commission (in fish, lol). The coupon to enter at checkout is okologicAKseafood.
With population growth and more interest in eating healthfully, wild salmon is sometimes over-fished. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some populations of salmon are listed as endangered. “Sockeye salmon from the Snake River system are probably the most endangered salmon. Coho salmon in the lower Columbia River may already be extinct. Salmon are not endangered worldwide. For example, most populations in Alaska are healthy.”
The fishermen in Alaska are probably the most concerned about the issue and do everything in their power to counter the problem. Here is the take of Alaska Gold Brand co-op from where I get my salmon:
Nobody advocates as passionately for protecting the waters and the fish than fishermen. Many watersheds might have been destroyed by mining or timber if it were not for fishermen who depend on the health of these places. There are only a few of these places left on the planet and our fishermen are fighting to protect them. When managed well, as wild salmon stocks are in the state of Alaska, wild salmon is a resource that can last forever.
How to Prepare Wild Salmon
The healthiest way to cook salmon is baking or poaching. But there are also other ways, which add a tiny bit of extra fat but if you make it a good fat, like extra virgin olive oil, no harm will be done.
1. Oven-baked salmon
- Pat dry your salmon fillets.
- Salt and pepper them. Sprinkle a bit of lemon juice (optional)
- Bake at 450 F for 12-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish)
2. Grilled salmon
Here you can either use a whole large salmon fillet or small individual fillets. I like to grill a whole salmon on a cedar plank and divide it up at the table after grilling.
For grilled salmon, a simple rub can help bring out the rich salmon flavors.
- 2TBS Brown sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Pepper
- 2 tsp Garlic powder
- Touch of Cayenne (if you want a bit of spice)
- Mix it all up and rub over the salmon. Let it marinade for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
Grill on medium, for 5-6 minutes per side, turning once.
3. Poached Salmon in white wine
- Heat a medium-deep pan on medium heat.
- Place 1 TBS of extra virgin olive oil on the pan.
- Pat dry and season the salmon.
- Place on the pan skin side down and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Pour 1 cup of full-bodied white wine over the fish (Chardonnay, Voigner, or White Burgundy would be best)
- Cover the pan and leave the salmon undisturbed for about 10 minutes.
- Make sure not to overcook!
4. Sauteed Salmon with Maple Syrup and Mustard Glaze
- Pat dry the salmon.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix 1 TBS of Dijon mustard and 2 TBS of Maple Syrup and marinate the salmon in the mixture for 1 hour in the fridge. (I pour the glaze into a 1-gallon ziplock bag and put my fillets into it, and rub the salmon with the marinade this way)
- After one hour, spray a bit of olive oil or coconut oil spray on the pan and heat up on medium heat.
- Saute the salmon with the glaze, turning once, 3-4 minutes per side.
5. Red Curry Salmon
Another favorite in my home. And super easy to make.
- Saute cut-up veggies of choice (carrots, peppers, onions, green beans) in olive oil for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix 1 can of coconut oil with 1 tsp (or more for more spice) of red curry paste (check international stores or the international section in supermarkets).
- Pour the mixture over the veggies and let simmer.
- When the veggies are almost, but not yet fully tender, place your salmon fillets on top of the veggies and cover with the sauce. Cover the pan and let simmer until the fish is cooked through (around 7-8 minutes)
What to Eat with Salmon
Whatever rocks your boat. Here are some options that we go for at home:
- Simple risotto
- Wild rice (especially with the red curry salmon)
- Green bean and tomato salad
- Bed of sauteed spinach
- Steamed broccoli
- Mango and tomato salsa (for the grilled salmon)
- Soba Noodles (for the curry, yum!)
- Fingerling potatoes
- Cucumber and dill salad (great for the poached salmon)
Best Wine with Salmon
My general preference is a buttery, full-bodied Chardonnay. I like how the richness of the salmon goes with the richness of the wine. For the curry salmon, I sometimes serve a spicy Gewürzraminer or a crisp Riesling. The touch of sweetness in both bring out the spicy flavors of the curry. For the grilled salmon, a lighter and more delicate red like a Pino Noir is a good option since the salmon with the rub or marinade is even richer than poached or sauted fish.
For a non-alcoholic drink, a nice glass of Ice-tea or an Arnold Palmer could do the trick. Or try a cucumber flavored water. Yum!