White King Salmon
Lobster Butter Sauce
Gnocchi, Edamame, Roasted Maitake
White King Salmon Sashimi: Nobu-Style
Jalapeño, Garlic, Cilantro, Lemon Ponzu
White king salmon are special, and rare. About 5% of king salmon do not have the ability to metabolize and store the red-orange pigment, carotene, in their muscle cells.
In the past it was believed that white and red king salmon consumed notably different diets, leading to their flesh color distinction. Scientists now believe that variation in flesh color is controlled by genetics. White king salmon cannot metabolize these pigments from their food sources, leaving their flesh white. (from Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game).
There is no way for the Alaskan fishermen to know if their catch is white until it is sliced open. Because of its precious nature, much of this treasure doesn’t make it to the lower 48. Who could blame them for keeping it and enjoying on the spot?
The white kings that do make it to the lower 48 are highly prized for their flavor, texture, and unique color – and are often offered as a pricey nightly special in many high-end restaurants.
It is not only the pure ivory color that is extraordinary. These fillets taste very different than red-orange flesh king salmon. The cooked flesh is silky, and tastes fine and delicate, more mild in an elegant way. It is curiously soft and buttery.
Sashimi style white king has even more appealingly complex qualities – it is simply luscious with sweet, clean, buttery, and moist characteristics.
White King Salmon Recipes
Cooked White King Salmon
I use one of Jacques Pépin’s techniques to cook this salmon to preserve the color and flavor. It is cooked gently, au naturel.
Let fillet(s) come close to room temperature before cooking. Pat dry with paper towels. Heat a non-stick pan. Season fish with sea salt on both sides. Place fish skin-side-down in the hot dry pan. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 6 – 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Do not flip over.
There are no caramelized edges, the result is crisp skin on the bottom, and a pure beautifully cooked pristine piece of fish. When it is cooked in this manner, the fish oils warm up, the flesh softens and the exquisite white king seems to melt in the mouth.
To enhance the flavors of the sea, I serve it here with my lobster butter sauce. Pillows of potato gnocchi bring soft chewiness, edamame bring a pop of green color and a sweet nuttiness, while roasted maitake mushrooms add an earthy, peppery crunchiness.
It is plated with the fish unadorned on top. One can take a bite of the fish by itself without the rest of the ingredients to experience true white king salmon. Then, pair subsequent bites with the other ingredients for a true flavor explosion.
Ladle a thin layer of lobster butter sauce into warm shallow bowls.
Place cooked white king salmon fillet in the middle.
Arrange cooked potato gnocchi, warm shelled edamame, and roasted maitake mushrooms around the fish. (High-quality, store-bought potato gnocchi and frozen edamame work just fine in this dish. Cook according to package instructions).
Finish with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
The awesome ingredient combination was inspired by Water Grill Las Vegas where the chef pairs a pan-roasted halibut dish with fava beans and morels.
White King Salmon Sashimi
This bonus dish was inspired by the iconic Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño by Nobu Matsuhisa. After trimming the 10 oz. white king salmon fillet for the cooked version, I had a nice small piece of white salmon left for sashimi.
The salmon was thinly sliced and placed in a shallow bowl over lemon ponzu. This lemon ponzu was made by simply combining equal parts dashi, lemon juice, and soy sauce. A dab of minced garlic was placed on each of the salmon slices, then topped with a thin jalapeño slice. Just enough cilantro leaves are placed in the center, so each portion can contain a bite of garlic, chili, and herb for a simple, refreshing, high-quality, elegant morsel…