Salmon salad. Pretty ordinary, right? Not my version, which, as you might expect, comes with a twist: It’s not made from salmon fillets. I make my salmon salad by grilling the bones after I’ve filleted the fish, then stripping the meat from the ribs for this salad. I am a thrifty Scot, after all…
Most anglers I’ve encountered toss the racks from their salmon into the sea, or use them as crab bait. This is a pity. There is so much meat still left on the bones of these fish — several pounds on the bones of a large king salmon. Even beyond sheer yield, however, there is a lot of truth to the saying “the closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat.” The meat you get off the racks is indeed juicier and a little fattier than that from the regular fillet.
Yes, picking the meat off the bone can be fiddly. It takes me about 15 minutes to strip the good meat off the bones of a large salmon. But it’s totally worth it, especially when you think about how much wild king salmon costs in the supermarket.
You don’t have to use the meat you strip off for salmon salad. Sometimes I use it to make salmon cakes, and it’s also good dropped into a soup. But this salmon salad is really good. It’s one of our go-to dinners when the weather is hot, and once the weather cools it makes fantastic sandwiches for lunch during the week.
My recipe is a little spicy and garlicky, but you can tone this down if you’d like. And hell, you can even use whatever salmon salad recipe you want — what’s important is to not waste all that meat!
Grilled Salmon Salad
You can make this salmon salad with flaked meat from any part of the salmon, and you can make it from any species of salmon; this is an especially good recipe for lesser fish such as chum salmon. I use king salmon, however, because that’s what we catch in California. Once you make this recipe, it will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
To get 1 pound of picked salmon meat, you will need the bones from 1 big king salmon of about 15-20 pounds, or an equivalent in smaller salmon. You can also bulk it up by adding the bellies and the collars to the mix.
Serves 4 to 6.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1 pound picked salmon meat (see below)
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- Hot sauce to taste (I use Tabasco’s Garlic hot sauce)
- Salt and pepper
- Start by grilling the salmon. Get your grill hot and make sure the grates are clean. Coat the bones and bellies in a little vegetable oil and salt them well. Once the grill is hot, grill the salmon for about 5 to 10 minutes per side. You want a little charring going on. Set the salmon racks on a baking sheet to cool.
- Once the meat is cool enough to handle, strip all the meat off the bones. One tip to remember when doing this is that the bones all point in the same direction, so you can often get big boneless pieces off in one swipe. Set the meat into a large bowl. When you are done, pick through it and check for any stray bones or globs of fat. (Secret trick: I break off the brittle ends of the charred fins and crumble them into the salad. This adds a charred, grilled taste that’s hard to get any other way.)
- Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Adjust salt and hot sauce to taste and serve either at room temperature or chilled.