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David Lissner
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Eat this! Chinook, the king of wild salmon

The Chicago Firehouse

The Chicago Firehouse's grilled salmon.

What it is: The largest species of Pacific salmon, averaging between 15 and 40 pounds, chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is often called “king” salmon, reflecting not only its size but its superior flavor. A rich, fatty fish, king salmon is highly prized, expensive and, in some areas, endangered.

Where it comes from: In the U.S., king salmon are commercially caught from central California to northwest Alaska. The fish live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater and therefore accumulate fat reserves for their run through long, cold rivers. That gives salmon from Alaska’s Yukon River, with its 2,200 mile run, the very best flavor of all. The salmon are at their most prolific and flavorful in spring and summer.

Chinook or ”king“ salmon

Chinook or ”king“ salmon.

There are also sport-fishing stocks in the Great Lakes, an introduced species maintained by annual stream stocking programs.

This year’s salmon season is expected to be a robust one, with the reopening of salmon fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington that had been closed to allow depleted stocks to recover.

What to do with it: This rich fish is best cooked simply, to let its natural flavor shine through. At the The Chicago Firehouse in the South Loop, Chef Kendal Duque grills king salmon and serves it on a bed of mustard greens.

The Chicago Firehouse’s grilled wild king salmon
with braised mustard greens and spicy applewood-smoked bacon vinaigrette
Chef Kendal Duque

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, sliced thin
1 strip applewood-smoked bacon
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 pounds mustard greens, roughly cut into large chunks
2 cups white wine
Water as needed
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

4 6-ounce fillets wild king salmon, skin on if possible
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Bacon vinaigrette:
6 strips applewood smoked bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch thin pieces
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme and parsley
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Market vegetables, your choice, cooked and seasoned

Kendal Duque

Kendal Duque

Cook the greens: In large pot, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.

Add the greens and let wilt in pot for about 5 minutes. Add wine, remaining oil and enough water to barely cover. Stir well and cover pot. Turn the heat to low and cook for about 30 minutes until greens are tender. Season to taste and keep warm.

Prepare the salmon: About 1/2 hour before grilling, rub the salmon with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Oil the grid and preheat the grill to medium-hot.

When ready to grill, place the salmon with the flesh side down on the hottest part of the grill. Grill for 2 minutes without moving. With a spatula, gently move each piece of salmon 90 degrees in one direction to achieve criss-cross grill marks. Grill for 2 more minutes. Now flip each piece of fish onto the skin side and let finish cooking depending on thickness and desired cooking temperature.

When cooked to your liking, lift the fish with a spatula letting the skin stick to the grill so as to keep the fish itself whole. Keep warm.

Make the vinaigrette: In a medium pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring often, until tender and the fat is rendered. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the bacon is crisp. Add chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the vinegar in. Add the oil, fresh herbs, and pepper.

To assemble: Divide the greens between four plates. Place the salmon on top and spoon the vinaigrette over and around the fish. Place some of the market vegetables around the fish and serve. 4 servings.

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