I’m taking part in The Canadian Food Experience Project, which challenges bloggers to post each month about a Canadian culinary topic. This month the focus is on cherished Canadian recipes, which is a hard topic; Canadian cuisine in general focuses on ingredients over preparations, and so there aren’t a lot of truly Canadian recipes. However those that do exist are great, though they are often very regional or even personal.
My family has shared several recipes down over the four generations we have been in this country, and as my father’s family worked in the fishing industry I thought I would share the family method of preparing salmon tails. I grew up around fish and fishing boats, and my earliest memories are of freshly caught salmon baking in the oven. One of my little culinary tricks is to avoid serving the big salmon steaks one finds in restaurants; I stick to the tails, which are much more flavourful. I start this recipe with a nice fresh wild sockeye, usually about the back third of a fillet. Only buy salmon from someone you trust; when I can’t get fish from my father, I go to Longliner on Granville Island, whose beautiful fish has never let me down.
Mix with a whisk about a third of a cup of canola oil, a tablespoon of Ethiopian berbere (not what grandma used, but it is the perfect spice for salmon), and three tablespoons of tomato ketchup. Spread this strange mix onto the fish, which should be placed in a glass baking pan. Grind a little black pepper onto the whole thing. I strongly discourage people from using lemon on salmon, by the way; it brings out a fishy flavour and destroys the delicate forest/berry flavour that good salmon should have. Cook at 390 F until the thickest section just starts to flake. Leave in the pan to cool for five minutes- the last bit of cooking happens there.
Salmon is an iconic Canadian food, and is absolutely essential to West Coast cuisine. Candied salmon is a great example of what the Japanese call an Omiyage, or regional food gift. Salmon is one of the most popular items at the airport! Our salmon runs are national treasures, and require that we carefully steward our rivers for their use. If you love salmon, consider getting involved with stream and wetland restoration.