chinook



there is many a salmon, but only one king or chinook, masunosuka, kamchatka, black mouth, or tyee salmon. the anadromous*, state fish of alaska. returning spring salmon at the very best for eating, anywhichway, fire roasted, pan seared, poached, grilled, slow smoked, baked, en croute, as sashimi, it will never disappoint you. frozen or fresh, might be the question. in this case the frozen fish, unless long overdue, or badly stored, will work, but won't be nearly as juicy, as delicious as the fresh one.
fresh spring salmon came early this year - we hardly had winter - and is at your fish monger now, at least up here in the pacific north-west. you can, of course always go take the boat and catch your own and have a family feast or freeze the beast. i don’t do the family thing and my freezer does best at ice cubes. so i buy mine when its around and now, this early march, is the time for spring chinook to show in the lower columbia and hence likely for sale at newman’s.
i like to twin some olive oil with butter and cook the fish skin side down in a 275 oven, or in a slow pan stove top, for a short time, say ten minutes. the skin will slide off easily, the fish ought to flake readily, under-cooked is better than dry. while the fish comes around i roll fresh asparagus in butter, just enough to take the edge of the raw and have it warm aside the chinook. that will work, salt if you want. stephanie likes chives, so i scissor cut a few for her pleasure.
as i said there is many a way to do that salmon. if you happen to have a whole fish and are on a nearby beach, if the night is delicious and you’re not alone i’d recommend the old tribal way. make a fire of alder wood. when the coals are low and on a slow glow, weave the butter-flied fish into a crisscross of freshly cut cedar sticks and stand your construction up right, up-wind and about five feet from the cinders, flesh to the heat. this will eventually yield a smoke tendered fish, superbly flavored, of complex fragrance and such texture impossibly attained otherwise.
if that happens to tender your patience, you can always plank cook your chinook on alder wood, or have it my way. as it turns out this fish, this early spring salmon, heading up river to spawn, still has most all the fat from its life in the pacific. so, no question, this is the time to gorge on the beast, any old way, line caught or hooked at the monger.

*anadromous: greek for ‘running upward’. fish that hatch in fresh water, move to salt water to feed and mature, and return to fresh water to spawn.