Executive Sous Chef
As the snow melts and the weather begins to warm up here at Four Seasons Resort Whistler, so does the salmon season. Each year, the natural bounty of the ocean off the coast of Western Canada and the U.S. is home to varieties like Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum, and we’re lucky to see them all. Naturally, around this time of year many chefs begin preparing their favourite dishes — and I’m happy to be one of them. Salmon is an easily cooked fish and the flesh of each type of salmon varies in colour and fat content, which creates a wide variety of preparation options, from candied and smoked to sashimi.
I’m also happy to be part of the chef community of anglers who look forward to the salmon run season. The region to open is the Copper River in Alaska and then it slowly stretches down the West coast of B.C. into Washington state. There are many ways to fish for salmon in the rivers of British Columbia but none compare to the thrill of wrestling a 15-pound salmon on a fly rod, trust me! By the end of summer, we begin to see the Pinks start their run followed a couple months later by the Chum salmon. Standing knee-deep in cool rivers taking in the serene beauty and fresh air of the surrounding natural environment is a reward in itself. Suddenly, the salmon come into the streams by the thousands and even beginners will have luck catching one. (Be sure to research government regulations in your area.)
As a chef, it is especially rewarding to haul in your prize fish, then dream of ways to prepare it. I have created a few recipes that you can easily prepare at home, should you catch (or buy) your own beauty: The first is Salmon Gravlax. This is a simple recipe for those who love smoked salmon. The fish is cured for a 24-hour period, which results in a smooth and delicate cured fish infused with aromatic herbs. Just slice the flesh thinly and serve on a bagel with cream cheese or in a light salad. At Four Seasons Resort Whistler, we serve ours this way with house-cured pickled vegetables and a little grilled bread.
The second recipe is Maple-Soy Glazed B.C. Salmon, inspired by the Pacific Rim. The sweet notes of the maple glaze caramelize with the rich soy flavors in a magical pairing. A little heat from some chili and some elegant cilantro notes finish this dish like the end of a symphony. I paired this with some other incredible items that come with spring in our area. The first is a local secret called fiddlehead ferns. These tender delicacies, which are sprouts of the wild ostrich fern, peek their heads out of the ground after the snow melts. Sautéed lightly they have the characteristics of a cross between broccoli and asparagus. The next item is hops shoots. If you’re a beer-maker or gardener, you are probably familiar with these. They are like baby wild asparagus. The final item is Morel mushrooms. These are a chef’s delight and have great flavor and texture. Local foragers sell these at artisan markets and to restaurants every spring. These three spring ingredients paired with the marinated salmon and a little extra virgin olive oil will be sure to impress any guests you might entertain.
The final recipe I am sharing is a Grilled Salmon Gravlax Panini with Secret Sauce. I’ve paired it with another spring gem: ramps. These wild baby leeks are incredibly fragrant and full of flavour. Here, I’ve pickled the bottoms to give a little tang to complement the buttery rich salmon and the leaves are sautéed to give and intense onion flavor that would be similar to red onion. This has all the great attributes of a salmon and cream cheese bagel with onions and capers — but times 1,000. Add a little pepper jack cheese and grill until soft and gooey on fresh herb focaccia and you have a killer dish. In fact, I think I’ll stop typing and go make one now!