Salmon for the Christmas table

Salmon (Image by John Coupe)
Salmon (Image by John Coupe)

More and more salmon is becoming a common sight on Christmas dining tables. With it oily, deep orange flaky flesh it’s perfect as a starter, for brunch or making a statement dish for the main course.

Bought fresh its heavily-scaled, silver skin and black, speckled back makes it easily recognisable on the fish monger’s ice laden shop counter.

Fish are sold whole, or as fillets or steaks, both fresh and frozen and they’re also available hot- and cold- smoked. It’s also great with blinis, or perhaps baked in parchment or poached in caper sauce.


Whole salmon are usually gutted: if you’re cooking a whole salmon, the gills should be removed. Salmon fillets usually require skinning; if cooking salmon fillets with the skin on, be sure they’ve been scaled. “Pin bones can be removed before or after cooking,” says the BBC.

“Salmon is a popular choice due to its versatility. It can be grilled, baked, pan-fried, deep-fried or poached and pairs well with many flavours. It is excellent poached and served with hollandaise sauce, or deep-fried as tempura and cooked with Asian flavours such as soy, sesame, chilli and ginger. Cooked whole or as sandwiched whole fillets, salmon is a good fish to use when catering for large numbers”.

If you’re buying a whole salmon, here’s some tips from Alaska Seafood for filleting a whole fish:

  • Place dressed fish with belly toward you. With a very sharp knife, cut through flesh from end of cavity back through to tail.
  • Place knife blade against backbone and cut along backbone from head to tail on one side of fish, severing ribs and top piece from backbone.
  • Lay top piece aside. Remove backbone from remaining side.
  • With a smaller knife, trim away rib and fin bones from both pieces. Pull out pin bones, if desired.
  • If you wish to skin fillets, place skin-side-down on cutting surface. Hold tail end tightly. With sharp knife, cut down through the flesh to skin.
  • Flatten knife against skin and cut flesh away by sliding it toward head end while holding tail end of skin firmly.
  • Prepared salmon fillets can be baked, poached or grilled, or cut into serving sized portions.

Here’s a recipe that might find room on your table over the Christmas period:

Great grillled Alaska salmon side with Asian seasoning

Grilled Alaskan salmon (Image; John Coupe)
Grilled Alaskan salmon (Image; John Coupe)












1 frozen Alaska Salmon side (1.5 to 2.5 pounds)
Heavy-duty aluminum foil (18-inches wide)
High-heat cooking spray
Oil (olive, rapeseed or grapeseed)
Seasoning or spread of your choice

Heat grill to medium-high (200°C, 400°F).  Spray-coat dull side of aluminum foil (18-inch wide sheet, cut 4” longer than salmon side).  Rinse any ice glaze from frozen Alaska Salmon under cold water; pat dry with paper towel.  Brush both sides of frozen fish with oil and place on foil (skin side down).  Bring long sides of foil together and fold over several times to seal; roll up short ends to form a packet.  Place packet, seam side down, onto grill grate and cook 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove packet from grill, open, and add seasoning of choice (below). Crimp loosely to close, and return to grill (seam side up).  Cook an additional 8 to 10 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout.

2 Tablespoons each: white miso, seasoned rice vinegar, slivered fresh ginger, sliced green onions, sliced onions.
Salt, to taste, just before serving.
2 Tablespoons each white miso and lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon each sesame oil and red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt, to taste, just before serving.

Juide of 1 lime half
2 Tablespoons chopped canned chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
Sea salt, to taste, just before serving
1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro, just before serving.

Squeeze lime juice onto salmon.  Blend canned chiles, fresh thyme and brown sugar.  Spread over cooked side of salmon; close packet lightly and return to grill and cook an additional 8 to 10 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout.  Season with sea salt and ¼ cup chopped parsley or cilantro just before serving.

Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and brown sugar.

Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi powder or 1 teaspoon wasabi paste.

2 Tablespoons each harissa and chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon each chopped parsley and olive oil
Salt, to taste.

Source: Alaska Seafood

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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