Are we in the age of salmon collars? Back in the 80s, if you had a dinner party, chances are you were going to serve salmon "steaks"--remember them? These were thick cuts of salmon cut perpendicular to the backbone.
Then we seemed to evolve into fillets. They're the same meat--but instead cut parallel to the backbone and the bone. Fillets--of all kinds of fish--are still hugely popular. And delicious. But I'd like to think we've now evolved to enjoying more cuts of more fish. The belly. The tail. The cheeks. Maybe even the whole fish.
One of my favorites, though, is the collar. This is a cut right along the clavicle behind the gills. It's got some rich belly meat and a lovely fat cap. Get that collar near high heat and the fat caramelizes the skin and it becomes this crispy, luxe fish lollipop that you can grab by the fin to suck off the meat. Oh... And did I mention how cheap they are?
I picked up a couple of salmon collars at Catalina Offshore Products last week. They were priced at less than $2 a pound. Then I mulled how to cook them. Yes, they can really flavor up a stew. They're a delight in a curry. Yet to my mind, they're really best grilled, but this hasn't exactly been grilling weather. Instead I could run them under the broiler. Or I could do stove-top grilling using my carbon-steel pan. Since the pan is relatively new to me so I decided to test it out with the salmon using a sugary marinade I thought could possibly confound it (it didn't).
I thought first of using my sister's recipe. She and my brother-in-law had honeymooned in Alaska decades ago and when they returned with a salmon they had caught and flash frozen, they had family over for dinner with the salmon as the main attraction. It's still the best I've ever had. I only vaguely remembered the ingredients--soy sauce, butter, brown sugar...maybe mustard. Sounds great, right? Well, it was but I still need to work on it since I don't have the proportions. But it did get me to thinking about teriyaki as an alternative. And then making my own.
What I found was a recipe published a couple of years ago in Food Republic by Myra and Marea Goodman, authors of Straight from the Earth, a vegan cookbook. Their teriyaki recipe is part of a larger one for Teriyaki Tofu Broccolette on Wild Rice, which sounds fabulous. But in the meantime I made the sauce for my collars. Not exactly vegan, but a good recipe is a good recipe.
The sauce calls for what you'd imagine are the usual suspects--soy sauce, brown sugar, unseasoned rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. It's pretty simple. Put them all in a small, heavy saucepan together with some additional water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until it thickens. It's wonderfully sweet, salty, and sticky.
I made things even easier by using three of my ginger-garlic flavor bombs. The rest was a snap.
Now you're not really going to marinate the collars. Instead you'll heat up your pan and add an oil with a high smoke point. I used canola. Forget doing the usual seasoning with salt and pepper. The marinade has plenty of each. So clean and trim the collar, which may have some "stuff" hanging on to it--organs and blood lines, for instance. Clip them into two pieces.
That's it. If it burns, don't worry much about it. That's just superficial--and makes it all divinely crispy. The meat inside will be amazing. And if you feel the need to use your fingers, all the better. Save the rest of the teriyaki sauce for seasoning chicken, vegetables, tofu.... You'll want to keep it on hand.
Teriyaki Salmon Collars
(from Straight from the Earth by Myra and Marea Goodman)
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 large salmon collars, cleaned
1. To make the teriyaki sauce, combine the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup of water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Bring to the start of a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce sit at room temperature while you prepare the salmon.
4. Heat the pan on the stove top. When it starts to smoke add the oil. Then add the salmon collars skin side down. After no more than 2 minutes flip them over. Brush the cooked side with the teriyaki sauce. After about a minute flip the collars and remove them to a serving plate. Brush that side with teriyaki sauce or pour some reserved sauce on it.
5. Serve with rice or other grains.