Smoked Sockeye Salmon Recipe

December 15, 2013

Northwest Smoked Sockeye Salmon Recipe

The top 2 fillets are Sockeye Salmon, the bottom 2 are Coho

Salmon. In the Pacific Northwest salmon is akin to Manna in the local food hierarchy. Yes, we have Dungeness crab, fresh oysters, cherries, apples, Walla Walla onions, asparagus, and many other fantastic local indigenous foods. But they are simply Barons and Lords on the food chain…Salmon is king.

While the seasonality of other local foods is celebrated, it is the annual run of wild salmon that Washingtonians, and chefs in particular, eagerly await with baited breath every May. It means that for the next few months all species of wild salmon will be available fresh. Restaurants and chefs scramble to be among the those few who offer the first fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon of the year.

But even when the fresh season is over (actually, fresh king salmon is available almost year around, however, Sockeye and Coho are not), salmon continues to be an important part of our Pacific Northwest culture and our restaurant menus.

Now that the fresh Sockeye season has ended, here is an excellent recipe for Smoked Sockeye Salmon using frozen fish. Now I’m not to saying that frozen salmon isn’t good, because it is. It’s just that we get spoiled having fresh for five months, and while frozen salmon is good, fresh salmon is fantastic and always my first choice!

I’ve used this recipe now for a number of years and have never found a better one. The salt content is low, the finished product is still moist, and the smokiness “just right”. But, I recently learned a new technique, an added step, which takes this recipe from “really damn good” to “fucking amazing”! The new technique is to “allow the pellicle to form”…no additional ingredients, just an extra step. After brining, rinse the fish and dry with paper towels, then allow to air-dry in the cooler until a thin, moist layer forms (the pellicle). It takes at least an hour…I let it go overnight.  Then proceed with the recipe as normal. The result is smoked salmon which is more moist and which has a fantastic glaze-like sheen that will put a big-ass smile on your face!

The pellicle is a thin, tacky protein layer which forms on meat/fish after the brining process. It acts as a protective layer to keep the fish more moist. And it gives a better surface for the smoke to attach to during the smoking process. The end result puts a big smile on your face! Beautiful, moist, and delicious! Below are before and after pics of the difference of letting the pellicle form before smoking. Other than that one step, the recipe is identical and both are Sockeye Salmon with the same color before starting the recipe.

click on the images to enlarge

without forming the pellicle
with the pellicle forming step


Smoked Salmon Recipe

Yield: 1 Pound


Step 1

1          Qt       Water
½         Cup     Kosher Salt
½         Lb       Brown Sugar
3          Each    Bay Leaf

Step 2

1 ½      Qts      Cold Water
½         Qt       Soy Lite
¼         Cup     Cracked Black Pepper

1          Lb       Sockeye Salmon, skin-off, pin bones removed


Heat the Step 1 ingredients until salt is dissolved.  Remove from heat and transfer to a container large enough to hold the salmon, yet narrow enough that the liquid will cover the salmon completely.

Add the ingredients from Step 2 and allow the brining liquid to cool to 41° or lower.

Add the salmon to the brine and leave it in the refrigerator for 1 day (18-24 hours).  Remove the salmon from the brine, rinse & dry thoroughly with paper towels. Place on a drain rack in the cooler or refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 10 hours. This will allow the “pellicle” to form.

Have a smoker already lit and smoking using apple chips.  Place the salmon in the smoker for 2 hours.  For best results, the salmon should remain as close to 40° as possible.  Remove from the smoker and bake in oven at 325° to a temperature of 135°. Chill until ready to serve.

Using a very sharp, thin knife, carefully, slowly cut the salmon into the portion sizes you want and serve!


Posted In:Recipe

Taste of Tulalip 2013 – Grand Taste

Taste-of-Tulalip-2013-Plate.gifThis year at the Taste of Tulalip’s Grand Taste enthusiastic revelers were offered a more extensive selection of excellent food and wine than ever before. With over 20 culinary delicacies to nosh on and over 120 wines to swirl & savor it was indeed an all day indulgence type of outing.

2013 marked the 5-year anniversary of the popular event, and to accommodate more people, food and wine we saw a redesigned layout of the event which expanded into additional areas of the Tulalip special function rooms. This expansion gave the feeling of a much less crowded look and atmosphere.Even with more attendees, the crowd “felt” smaller, and the lines for both food and wine were very short or non-existent.

Since I was already sore from Friday’s event, and the week of prep leading up to this point, I started my day with the typical chef’s breakfast supplement of a triple hit of ibuprofen…repeat for lunch and dinner.

For events such as this, a detailed mise en place list is the lifeblood of success. Without it one small thing is going to be overlooked which could then kill the entire day, causing you to pull your hair out while you scramble to recover from a small but essential oversight in the day’s necessities. A good list includes not only the food items and garnishes, but also the towels, utensils, equipment, sanitation buckets, plate design, and whatever else you plan to use that day.

Going through my list early in the day and double-checking it I noticed that my butane burners were not at the table. Come to find out two different departments expected the other one to get them for me. It was settled by sending someone to the store to buy additional ones for my station…a fatal oversight caught and averted before it became a problem. Tell that bastard Murphy’s Law to piss off!

The Food at the Taste of Tulalip 2013 Grand Taste

We served about 1800 pieces of each item this day and each creation was conceptualized and hand crafted by the designated Chef and his/her crew. Unfortunately my good camera died the week of the Taste so I had to use my iPhone for the pics…but at least you can get a good idea of the food served.



Rock & Roll Challenge

The Rock & Roll Challenge is a fun “iron chef” style cook-off. Three display kitchens (provided by Viking Range) under one tent, three teams of 2 chefs each, the exuberent Carla Hall as MC, jammin rock & roll, and an identical mystery basket for each team! This year’s chef teams were comprised of 4 local chefs and 2 Tulalip chefs. When they opened their mystery baskets they found foie gras, live geoduck, and Chito’s! They then had 10 minutes to work out a menu and battle plan, 30 minutes to produce samples for the judges including Chef Kristen Kish, and then an extended period of time to prepare their dish for the spectators. And the winner was Chef John Jamamec.

The Wineries to Sample

With so many wines to sample many guests opted to stay at the hotel this year, making their travel from beverage to room convenient, safe, and arrest free! Because Tulalip is located in Washington State the majority of wineries featured are from here…part of Tulalip’s commitment to local products and business. Many of the wineries offered second pouts, however I heard that some of the French wines being poured had a dealer cost of $400 – $600 per bottle, so there was a one pour limit on these high-end wines.

Grand Taste Wines at the Taste of Tulalip 2013


Adams Bench
Amavi Cellars
Ambassador Vineyards
Andrew Hill Winery
Barons Winery
Barrage Cellars
Bergevin Lane Vineyards
Betz Family Winery
Boudreaux Cellars
Cadence Winery
Charles Smith/K Vintners
Cahtaeau Ste. Michelle
Chinook Wines
Col Solare
Corliss Estate/Tranche
Côte Bonneville
Cuillen Hills
Dunham Cellars
Dusted Balley
El Corazon Winery
Figgins Family Wine Estates
Force Majeure
Furion Cellars
Gorman Winery

J Bookwalter
JM Cellars
Kevin White Winery
L’ Ecole 41
Leonetti Cellar
Long Shadows
Mackey Vineyards
Mark Ryan Winery
Milbrandt Vineyards
Northwest Totem Cellars
Obelisco Estate
Pepper Bridge Winery
Pondera Winery
Quilceda Creek
Rasa Vineyards
Revelry Vintners
Ross Andrew Winery
SalidaSaviah Cellars
Seven Hills Vineyards
Sleight of Hand Cellars
Sparkman Cellars
Spring Valley
Terra Blanca
Waitsburg Cellars
Willis Hall
Woodinville Wine Cellars


Aberrant Cellars
Beaux Fréres
Domaine Serene
King Estate
Owen Roe
Patricia Green Cellars
Penner Ash Wine Cellars
Sokol Blossor
Willa Kenzie Estate


Amuse Bouche
Gaurachi Family Wines
Nickel & Nickel
Rubicon Estate
Silver Oak
ZD Winery


Camille Giroud
Chateau Palmer
Domaine Laroche
Domaine Michel Magnien
Domaine Nicolas Rissignol
Dominique Mugneret
Nicolas Feuillatte


Bodegas Riojanas
Dominio de Atauta
Dominio De Tares
Gonáles Byass
Marques de Caceres
Pesquera Winery
Vall Llach

This year’s special guest line-up and agenda

Chef Kristen Kish – winner of season 10 Top Chef Seattle.
Chef Carla HallTop Chef contestant in seasons five & eight, and co-host of her the TV show The Chew.
Chef Lois Ellen Frankculinary historian, anthropologist, award winning author and photographer.

Saturday, November 9th
VIP Beer Seminar – 11:30 am
Kristen Kish Cooking Demo – 12:30 pm
Magnum Party with 250 attendees – 1:30 to 4:30 pm
Grand Taste with 2,000 attendees – 2:30 to 6:30 pm
Rock -n- Roll Challenge – 4:00pm


Posted In:Food and Wine  /  Taste of Tulalip