A couple weeks ago, with weekend temperatures forecasted to be unseasonably warm, we decided to have a tailgating party for Sunday football. Basically, instead of sitting indoors watching football we’d all wear jerseys and hang outside grilling food, drinking beers, and listening to games on the radio. I will take credit for the awesome idea, mainly because the actual people who thought of it don’t have blogs to refute the claim.
With plans to grill, I decided to make a dish that I had been thinking about ever since I saw salmon heads in the seafood case for a buck a pound: salmon wings.
My idea for salmon wings was removing and cooking the collar of the salmon, kind of similar to the Hamachi Kama (yellowfin collar) I made this summer. Unlike the yellowfin collar, the salmon collars are too small to eat with chopsticks so you would have to bend them and pull the meat out with your teeth like a chicken wing. Hence, salmon wings.
After quickly rinsing the heads in the sink and moving Janet’s jumparoo out of splatter range, I got to work butchering the heads.
Now, here’s where things get a little weird (weirder); the entire time I was cutting the heads I was singing to myself “fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads, fish heads fish heads, eat them up yum”. I have no idea where I have heard this song, why the lyrics were stuck in my head, and generally what the following video starring Bill Paxton is all about. But I know I am nervous about my sanity.
Not sure how we move on from here, but let’s go with pretending the previous paragraph never happened, OK?
The prep was actually a lot easier than I expected; the bone and cartilage connecting the collar to the head was a lot thinner than the tuna head and easier to cut through. The gills, which were the easiest part of the tuna head, were the toughest part to remove due to the size of the heads.
Instead of disposing of the rest of the head, I saw the potential in the meat remaining along the top and decided to cut out the gills and reserve the heads for later use.
Eventually I ended up with a cutting board of decently(-ish) butchered salmon collars.
The bowl of heads went back in the fridge for later use and, after a final rinse, the collars went into a marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, siracha, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, and a little five spice.
After a couple hours in the marinade, the salmon wings went onto the upper rack of the grill skin down to allow some of the fat to render over lower heat for ten minutes. From there they headed onto the main rack of the grill for five minutes on each side, leaving me with this.
After a few minutes to let them cool off, they were ready to sample. I found the easiest way to eat them was to pull apart from the fin and one end then dive into the meat that was exposed.
The first bite, right by the fin joint, had a lot of meat on it. The meat hadn’t taken on much of the marinade but was very rich and the texture was tender and moist. Aside from that area, there was bone on both sides that had a thin layer of meat on it that was heavily flavored by the marinade and grill.
A bunch of people tried these and the reviews were all positive. Great flavor, unique, and fun to eat. I’d definitely make salmon wings again.
When I got home from the tailgating a few hours later, I remembered that I had a giant bowl of fish heads waiting for me in the fridge.
Given the amount of soup I make on a weekly basis, I figured these would be put to best use by making some fish stock with them. So, they headed under the broiler with onions, carrots, celery and garlic to get a little char on them.
After everything had a little color, it all went into a stock pot covered completely with water to boil for a few hours.
Once the liquid had reduced and the flavors appeared to be right (read: I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed) I pulled all of the solids out using a slotted spoon to prepare the broth for straining.
Overall I ended up with about 4 quarts of fish broth which I will be sure to use in a future post or two. All in all, a very successful day of cooking.
Soups and bolognese will be included in one of my next posts, not sure in what order.