Thursday, October 11, 2012

The "L" Word: Salmon Risotto


Faster than a speeding bullet…no, I'm not talking about caped superheroes leaping tall buildings, I'm talking about how fast word spreads that a store has salmon on sale. In this case it was steelhead, technically a really big trout, but toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.

A friend mentioned that a nearby market had steelhead for $3.99 a pound, and faster than that proverbial bullet I was out the door and headed to the market. On the way I phoned Dave (using my ear buds and speaker…I'm not lawless, just in a hurry) to alert him that he'd be firing up the grill that evening, which always elicits a "Boy howdy!" response.

Long story short, I bought the biggest fish in the case, had the butcher fillet it and put the bones, head and tail in a separate bag. (Even at that price I figure since I'm paying for the whole fish—and the bag of bits on this puppy weighed almost two pounds—I'm going to get my money's worth out of it.)

Normally I'd take the carcass and drop it in a pot of water to make stock (right) for chowder, paella, risotto, etc., but my pal Hank Shaw had just that day posted that he roasts the carcass, then pulls the meat off the bones (above left). This gives him about a pound of fish flesh to use for whatever he wants, often a lovely fish salad.

Following his directions, I did exactly that and ended up with a nice pile of cooked salmon in addition to my two fillets. I gave one fillet to a friend who's been supplying me with scads of goodness from her garden, we had the other fillet for dinner and then a couple of nights later I used the roasted bits and some of the leftover (that's the "L" word around here) fillet to make the risotto below. I'd say that's a pretty good score for little bit of gossip!

Leftover Salmon Risotto

2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 Jimmy Nardello pepper or red bell pepper (about 1/2 c.), chopped fine
2 c. arborio rice
1 c. dry white or rosé wine
4 c. stock (I used a light fish stock from a previous carcass)
1 c. frozen corn1 lb. (or a little more) cooked salmon, flaked
2 egg yolks, stirred to break them up
1/2 c. parmesan or romano cheese, grated, plus more for the table
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter and margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and red pepper and sauté till tender. Add the rice and sauté for 30 seconds until hot, then reduce the heat to low and add the wine. Stir until the wine is absorbed. Add the stock a ladle-full at a time, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking. When the rice is about half done, add the frozen corn and stir to combine. Near the end of cooking, when the rice is still a bit soupy and al dente, add the salmon so it can warm up. When the rice is done, stir in the egg yolks and the half cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with extra cheese for sprinkling.

As always, this can be made in a microwave oven, too. And you can add kale or chard or parsley at will…it's a very flexible dish.

Photo of roasted salmon carcass by Holly Heyser.

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