Story by Manos Angelakis
Salmon portions photo by Sitka Salmon Shares, Saami Salmon soup courtesy of Sirpa Inarijarvi
A few weeks ago we received at the office a package of 2 lbs. filets of line-caught, wild Alaska coho salmon and 2 lb. halibut from Sitka Salmon Shares, a completely integrated boat-to-doorstep seafood company. As far as I could see, the salmon was sushi grade but, 2 lbs of sushi is a lot of raw salmon to eat, so I decided to make salmon soup with what I was sent.
I first encountered salmon soup in Finnish Lapland when we rented, for two summer weeks, a log house in the birch forest by Inarijarvi (Lake Inari), approximately 250 miles above the Arctic Circle. Our cook, a lovely local lady, hardly spoke a word of English but turned out to be a real find. She would bake her own bread and cookies. She would go to the forest around the house and come back with wild mushrooms and fresh bog berries that tasted a thousand times better than what one would get in a supermarket. Local fishermen and their wives would bring whitefish from the lake and salmon from local streams that were still alive on delivery.
With those absolutely fresh ingredients, she prepared great meals. When a large salmon, approximately 7 to 8 lb., was delivered one day, she filleted it and made gravlax with one half and Saami salmon soup with the other.
Ingredients for original 4 lb of salmon fillet soup:
4 lb. salmon fillet, skinned.
10 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2 large white onions, sliced
2 ribs celery
10 white peppercorns
4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
1 cup light cream or whole milk
1/2 cup butter
10 fresh dill sprigs
Start by making fish stock. Use the head, backbone and skin of the salmon, one celery rib and 1/2 of one onion chopped fine, sauté in 1/2 tbs. of the butter till onion starts to turn transparent. Add the water and boil for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid in a container and discard the rest (our cook would add the solids to her “compost bucket” to be used later in her garden). Then add to the stock the salmon pieces, balance of the onions, the remaining celery sliced thin, the potatoes and the balance of the butter. Boil and when the soup is ready finish by adding the milk or cream and the dill.
In the case of the Alaska salmon, I only had the fish fillets. Therefore I made the soup without first making stock from the trimmings. I used 2 smaller white onions for the 2 lbs of salmon and 5 cups of water plus a bottle of clam juice (in the USA every supermarket has bottles of clam juice; the clam juice gave that briny taste essential in making good fish soup), plus a cup of dry white wine, in this case Soave. I also used a single stalk of celery cut in thin slices, plus carrot slices, that were not included in the original recipe. I kept the rest of the ingredients at 2/3 of the recipe but the cream or milk I kept as 1 cup.
I started by cutting the fillets into portions, then finely chopping 1/2 the dill and setting it aside. I sautéed the onions, celery-stalk slices, and salt with a stick of butter (1/4 lb.). When the onions started turning transparent I added the water, clam juice, wine, carrot slices, potatoes and peppercorns and boiled till the potatoes were getting soft. I lowered the temperature to a low boil and added the fish portions and the unchopped 1/2 of the dill sprigs. I cooked the soup for another 10 or so minutes, till the fish was cooked through. I turned the heat off and, after a few minutes for the soup to cool a bit, I stirred in the light cream. I poured the soup in a soup tureen, sprinkled with the remaining chopped dill and decorated with a couple thin slices of lemon.
I like my soups lemony; so I usually add a teaspoon of lemon juice to my portion.
For further information or to order your own fresh seafood click https://sitkasalmonshares.com/
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