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 trim and bones after I’ve filleted the fish, then stripping the meat from the ribs for this salad. Waste not, want not.
Many anglers I’ve encountered toss the heads and bones from their salmon into the sea, or use them as crab bait. This is a pity, although they do indeed make excellent bait for Dungeness crabs (and the heads are great bait for sevengill sharks).
If you’re not crabbing or sharking later, it’s good to remember that there is so much meat still left on the bones of these fish — several pounds on the bones of a decent-sized 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 — $30 a pound when last I checked.
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… or for your next salmon fishing trip.
My recipe is a little spicy and garlicky, but you can tone this down if you’d like. What’s important is to not waste all that meat!
Grilled Salmon Salad
- 1 pound picked salmon or trout meat (see below)
- 3 to 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- Hot sauce to taste
- Salt and pepper
- If you are not using leftover salmon, start by grilling the bits you intend to use. 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 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.
- Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Adjust salt and hot sauce to taste and serve either at room temperature or chilled.
Grilling salmon for salmon salad is such an exciting and tasty idea! The extra work of stripping the meat and picking bones definitely seems worth it.
cindy hoong says
since I don’t fish, I get my salmon heads and carcasses from the fishman.
This is what I believe, strongly, in — it is bad we killed for food, it is even worse if we waste ‘the living thing’ who sacrafice its life for us.
I cook fishhead curry, make stock from bones and heads. I removed the meats for my cats, freeze them in plastic boxes, use them for fry rice, salad, add them to omlet as something special … you name it, there is always away we can use them …
I make fish stock from the heads and freeze for soup bases the whole year through. Extremely nutrient dense from the brain & eyes; basically a super food!
Holy cow! On the to do list!
Mary Frances says
I love simple delicious recipes like these-especially when they involve salmon!
Renee Person says
Hank – this looks most excellent. We, too, try to make good use of the carcasses after filleting our salmon. I take a spoon and scrape the bones as cleanly as I can. We get our years’ catch all at once, so are butchering 100 salmon or so at a time. I regularly get 20-30 pounds of meat off the bones and heads. With this I make salmon sausage. It’s become one of our favorite parts of the catch. The downside (or maybe not) is that it needs to be eaten more quickly than the rest of the fish. And those carcasses? We bury them in the garden in the fall. 🙂
Hank Shaw says
Renee: Yep. Spoon meat. If you look at my salmon burger recipe, that’s what it uses.