Salmon Challenge

I’m cooking Christmas dinner this year. In previous years, I’ve always tried to make an interesting vegetarian option. This year, Megan and I decided we wanted to cook salmon. A big reason is that earlier this year I purchased a Sansaire immersion recirculating heater so I could cook sous vide. I have found that the sous vide salmon that I cook at home tastes many times better than any other salmon I’ve ever had. Time to treat my family.

In my quest for good salmon over the past year, I have tried all different varieties. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that the Norwegian Atlantic salmon tastes like nothing. The pale Atlantic salmon just doesn’t do anything for me, nor Megan. We always opt for Pacific salmon, which always has a much stronger flavor.

I have always found that the quality of fish at the local grocers is always disappointing. I have only had luck when it is Pacific salmon season, which is about a month in the beginning of summer. Outside of that, the quality of the meat is always mediocre.

Megan did some research and found that Bob’s Seafood in University City has the best quality meat. Sure, but they close at 6pm and aren’t exactly around the corner. Maybe I could make that happen on Christmas eve, but it would be risky. I’ve also heard that Whole Foods has high quality seafood. Without going in too deep, I’ve never been in a Whole Foods before. Any store that greenwashes to their extent, and sells an entire wall of homeopathic drugs, goes straight into the category of boycott for me. That being said, I’m not impressed with the quality in Dierbergs nor the prices in Straub’s, so I decided to at least give them a call.

When I called Whole Foods, I spoke with Janice. They have sockeye salmon on sale for $14/lb. I wanted to make sure they would have some available and fresh on Christmas Eve so I could serve it on Christmas dinner. Janice told me that if I wanted to serve a nice Christmas meal, I would definitely want the Icelandic salmon. It has better fat, and is flown in fresh every day. The sockeye salmon is frozen from the salmon season in the Pacific (now 5 months old?), and is very lean. Oh, how juicy the farmed Icelandic salmon is! You will absolutely prefer the Icelandic salmon!

I was, as usual, very skeptical. Janice promised, though, that I should try it out. So, as painful as it was to walk into that store, I went to pay a visit to Janice. I stopped by last night, and she gave me a small cut of each. So, thus begins the Salmon Challenge!

Frozen sockeye salmon on the left, Fresh Icelandic salmon on the right

Frozen sockeye salmon on the left, fresh Icelandic salmon on the right

Notice the nice rich color of the sockeye on the left, must be full of flavor, right? But why would Janice be so insistent? Lets find out. I packaged each in a ziplock with a touch of canola oil and salt and pepper. Then, 25 minutes in 52°C sous vide. Pan sear in oil for 40 seconds. Here is the result (the sockeye salmon fell apart).

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Cooked meat, the sockeye salmon is on the left, and the Icelandic salmon is on the right

Which one tasted better? Megan and I both agreed, the sockeye had a stronger flavor, but the Icelandic farmed salmon was definitely the winner. It had a much better texture, and a very rich taste. You know, from all that extra fat. The only issue was how thick of a filet it was. Because of the sous vide cooking time of only 25 minutes, it wasn’t quite flaky enough for Megan. So now when I cook it for Christmas, I will give it a minimum of 40 minutes.

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