It’s hard to believe that, until a couple of decades ago, most wild Pacific salmon was either smoked, canned, or—gasp—turned into cat food. This time of year, of course, there is no richer, fattier, tastier delicacy than wild salmon from out West, the Alaskan king, a.k.a. Chinook, in particular. Without the benefit of tasting, though, how can you be sure you’re not being snookered before shelling out $29 per pound for a hunk of fish? Well, short of sending the fillets to a lab in North Carolina and having the test results vetted by a couple of Norwegians, as the New York Times did in an exposé last year, you can’t. But Esca’s Dave Pasternack, who has sources most seafood lovers can only dream of, recommends Eli’s on the Upper East Side. And the specimen we recently sampled from Citarella was among the best we’ve tasted.
Dave Pasternack’s Alaskan King Salmon With Sugar Snap Peas
4 8-oz. wild king salmon fillets
3/4 lbs. sugar snap peas
3 oz. canola oil
1 oz. guanciale, julienned (available at Buonitalia)
3 oz. black mint leaves
4 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. (1) Add the sugar snap peas and cook for two minutes. Remove and place in ice water to stop cooking. In a nonstick sauté pan, heat the canola oil until hot but not smoking, and (2) add the fillets skin side down and lower the flame. Cook the salmon for approximately five minutes or until the desired level of doneness is reached. (Tip: To get the skin crisp, press down on the fillets with your hand while cooking.) In another pan, heat 2 ounces of the olive oil with the guanciale. Render guanciale until golden but not crispy. Add the sugar snap peas and 2 tablespoons of water. Heat through, add mint, and remove from heat. Plate each fillet of salmon with a portion of the sugar snap peas. (3) Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve.