Process This: The Ultimate Salmon Burger Method

My husband and sons love to fish here in the Pacific Northwest. As a result, I always have a freezer full of flash frozen wild salmon. Pink. Coho. King. Hot smoked. Cold smoked. Over the years I’ve learned to use these nutrient-rich treasures in many ways.

In 2009, while judging the Alaska Symphony of Seafood, I perked up and took notice when fellow judge, Jordan Mackey, casually shared one of his tricks of the trade—how to make a good salmon burger.

“With this method, the burger stays really moist and you don’t have bread flakes or egg. They cook just great!”–Mackey

The Executive Chef of Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel at the time, Mackey explained, “I am not a fan of binders.  With this method, the burger stays really moist and you don’t have bread flakes or egg. They cook just great!” While many salmon burgers can indeed be laden with fillers, it was obvious that Mackey’s savvy method for using up trim and fat laden bellies was worth trying at home.

Mackey explained that after they trim the scraps from the fillets of salmon, they cut the salmon into small to medium dice. They then sprinkle the diced salmon lightly with kosher salt and a smaller amount of sugar. He then lets the mixture stand, chilled, for about 15 minutes. During this time the fish begins to weep and get slimy. It’s this natural protein laden slime that acts as the natural binder for the burger.  No panko! No eggs! No nasty additives!

Mackey then takes 30% of the mixture and quickly mixes it in the food processor to make a light chunky paste which he then stirs back into the diced salmon. Voila. There’s your basic salmon patty mixture! The restaurant presses this into 9 ounce patties and cooks them to medium rare in an omelet pan or Teflon skillet. (Mackey was careful to explain that his salmon patties and/or scraps are always previously frozen so any parasitic risk from eating medium rare burgers is minimized due to the freezing.)

Over the years, I’ve made these burgers many times, tweaking the ingredients according to whim and taste. Sometimes I take the classic route and just add lemon and dill to the mixture. When I am craving Asian, I add diced ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro plus a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil.  If I want a smoky Southwestern slant, I add some cumin and chipotle pepper.  While cooking the burgers I waffle between using a classic cast iron skillet and my beloved Le Creuset ridged grill pan. The grill pan creates great ridges and adds a touch of telltale smokiness to the burger.

Regardless of the flavors added or the type of pan used, the Ultimate Salmon Burger technique always results in a juicy and flavorful burger!

Note: I realize many readers probably don’t have whole fillets of salmon that need to have tips and bellies trimmed. Nonetheless, this method works great with previously frozen fillets or fillets purchased fresh at the store. The bottom line is that salmon burgers are a great way to add interest and flavor to a very nutritious seafood. 

 

 

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip
Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

My husband and sons love to fish in the Puget Sound throughout the summer. As a result, we enjoy locally caught salmon-King, Coho, and Pink-year round.

We freeze lots of it using our Food Saver but we also cart quite a bit of it to Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse here in Seattle where it is cold and hot smoked, vacuum packed and flash frozen to our specifications. We have a fair amount of that smoked salmon in the freezer, and I’ve decided it’s time to start cranking through it. Afterall, summer IS just around the corner!

Just before New Year’s Day, I decided to redesign my favorite smoked salmon recipe, one that I clipped from a magazine years ago. Basically, that one is a traditional cream cheese based rendition. Over the years,  I adapted the technique so I could make it in the food processor. I also tweaked the basic ingredients according to whim.

For 2014, I decided to do a complete overhaul by removing the cream cheese and replacing it with Fage Nonfat Greek yogurt. After numerous attempts and adjustments, I’ve finally landed on a slimmer smoked salmon dip that can be made quickly and easily in the food processor and weighs in with a minimum of belly busting fat. For my Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip, I also added red onion, fresh dill, and capers…most of the basic components found in myBristol Bay Sockeye Platter recipe.

The recipe was “family tested,” which means it was served in the midst of kitchen chaos with spouse and kids at hand. Everyone gave it their seal of approval and said it was better than the original. Reviews included commentary on the freshness, the lightness, the flavor factor and the ease of use. It was served on crackers, dolloped onto sliced fresh tomatoes, and swiped into celery sticks. It could easily just be served with crudité or used with whole grain bread and lettuce to make a quick healthy sandwich rich in Omega Three fatty acids.

It’s worth noting that when I entered my new recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe tracker online, it revealed that a 1/4 cup serving totaled only 1 point in their Points Tracker. So, indeed, it’s a lighter leaner version.

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Slimmer Smoked Salmon Dip

¼ small red onion, cut into chunks

1 Tablespoon capers, drained

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

8 ounces hot smoked salmon, skin removed

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

Juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Put onion, capers, and dill in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Pulse 10 times to chop and combine. Crumble salmon and add to food processor. Add yogurt, lemon juice, and horseradish. Process for 30 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary to combine.

Yield: About 2 cups or 8 servings.
Source: Melissa A. Trainer www.melissatrainer.com

Chill with Frozen Fish!

Frozen Bristol Bay sockeye. A super healthy and convenient superfood!
Frozen Bristol Bay sockeye. A super healthy and convenient superfood!

So, what’s your opinion on frozen seafood? Do you think it is inferior to the fresh seafood that you can purchase from the fish counter? Have you perused the freezer case in the seafood department lately? Do you regularly stock frozen salmon, cod, or other fish for quick weeknight dinners at your house?

Admittedly, I am quite picky about my seafood, but over the years I have learned that seafood in the freezer is an amazing asset! To be quite frank, keeping seafood in the freezer saves me time, money and the hassle of heading to the grocery store at the dreaded five o’clock hour.

In my household, we regularly keep wild salmon fillets as well as cold and hot smoked salmon in the deep freeze. I often just head to the freezer and pull out a few fillets for dinner. It works for me and it leaves me free to do other things. When defrosted, my previously frozen seafood often looks far better than the seafood kicking around the seafood case.

Even though I have salmon in the freezer, I decided to buy a whole sockeye fillet at QFC last night. I’ve been eyeballing these fillets for some time now, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a little consumer research myself. The wild Alaskan sockeye was from Peter Pan Seafoods and was caught in the FAO area 67, which is Bristol Bay. The sale price was $8.99 per pound and the fillet that I chose set me back about $12, which is a good deal.

Having toured many of the processing facilities in Bristol Bay, Alaska, I know that many of the sockeye fillets are promptly processed and frozen right after harvest. I know this, because I sported hair nets and stood there watching those freshly caught wild salmon race along the slime lines towards the freezer! This rapid processing, of course, protects many of the inherent characteristics of the salmon and brings a very hiqh-quality product to the market. The processors up in Bristol Bay work quickly because the wild salmon arrive in force over the course of about six weeks.

Frozen fish is a fabulous time saver.  Often frozen promptly after harvest, frozen fish, particularly salmon, is widely available and is a great time saver for busy cooks.
Frozen fish is a fabulous time saver. Often frozen promptly after harvest, frozen fish, particularly salmon, is widely available and is a great time saver for busy cooks.

Last night, I decided to simply let my sockeye fillet defrost slowly in the fridge. Today, I have to figure out what to do with it. Weighing in at less than two pounds, there really isn’t an excess of salmon for my family of five. I’m just perplexed on what to do with this amazingly bright red wild salmon. Grill it whole? Cut into chunks and pan sear? Cure it into an affordable yet luxurious gravlax for a weekend dinner party ?

So, do you buy the frozen seafood found at your local markets? If so, what do you choose and how do you use it? I have more to say about frozen seafood and will report back on my sockeye fillet, so stay tuned, folks!

Originally published on Amazon’s Al Dente blog on May 02, 2012