When I moved to Alaska, one of the perks was living in a place with abundant wild seafood, especially real Alaska salmon that didn't travel hundreds of miles to land in a Lower 48 seafood counter. So, in my enthusiastic and admittedly naïve exuberance, I was surprised to meet more than a fair share of Alaskans who "don't really care for salmon" or even claim it to be too "fishy." Being the food pusher that I am, I tried to find a way to make salmon palatable for the nonsalmon lovers.
Salmon are sturdy, rugged sea creatures; look how they have to store nutrients and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids to help them make their journey, up to hundreds of miles. I've found that because of the natural oils, it's a fish that holds up to more robust flavors and cooking methods, especially the frozen fillets from last summer that need some love and attention.
Testing recipes for a new cookbook, my coauthor and I developed this very simple and delicious way to dress up salmon. Mayonnaise and oyster sauce give it richness and umami, while gochujang, a kicked-up Korean red pepper paste, adds depth and heat. You can substitute the gochujang with Sriracha or harissa, but the paste is worth seeking out. Look for it in red tubs in the Asian section at the supermarket; it keeps a long time. This is a quick and easy weeknight dish that even those with salmon aversions tend to ask for over and over again.
Spicy salmon lettuce wraps
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 (1 1/2-to-2-pound) wild salmon fillet (skin on is fine), pin bones removed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons oyster sauce (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice
For serving: Steamed rice and bibb lettuce leaves
Optional garnishes: Toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onion, lime wedges, kimchi, cucumber slices
1. Place two oven racks on the two highest levels of oven. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Line two sheet pans (shallow baking sheets) with aluminum foil; lightly grease foil with cooking spray.
2. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Place fillets (skin-side down) on foil-lined baking sheets; set aside.
3. Mix together mayonnaise, oyster sauce, if using, gochujang, ginger or garlic in a small bowl. Brush or spoon sauce evenly over salmon.
4. Place baking sheet on second rack in oven, and roast 8 minutes, until sauce sizzles and begins to brown. Heat oven to broil. Place salmon on top rack of oven, and broil on high another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of fillet and desired doneness. Serve with bibb lettuce, rice and garnish, if desired, with toasted sesame seeds, sliced green onion, lime wedges, kimchi, and/or cucumber slices.