At one time in my life, I had the pleasure of working in a 38 story office building looking out over Central Park in Manhattan. Last week, I had the bigger joy of seeing “equally tall but 2500 years older” redwood trees located 350 miles north of San Francisco, California. Feeling the fresh mountain air and the sun in the redwoods was nourishing. Looking up at the moon and stars softly beaming at the night felt serene. Hugging the oldest redwood tree was inspiring. How small the proud, grounded, resilient tree made me feel!
In the 14th century, indigenous tribes settled in the redwood-covered rugged mountains along the Pacific Coast of Northern California and Oregon. Seafood was their key staple, and the salmon were especially important. In their tribal culture, salmon were believed to be “spirit people living in a magic village under the sea who were sent in fish disguise to feed people”. With that legend, salmon were treated with respect, and they even held a ceremony on the shore for the first-caught salmon of the season. After the ceremony, Native American women usually cleaned the fish and then steamed, poached or smoked these “sacred” fish. The smoking method was used to preserve salmons for the Winter. With the advent of refrigeration, it’s used more often now for flavoring. One day smoked salmon is mild and tender. Three day smoked salmon tastes dense and bold. Five day smoked salmon has a soft jerky-like texture and intense “woodsy” flavors. The longer the salmon is smoked, the more dense and intense it tastes. Since it’s not easy to smoke salmon indoors, today I’m making a delicious Native American tribal poached salmon in my California kitchen.
To start, I boil 2 liters of chicken broth and add 6 mushrooms (sliced), 3 teaspoons fresh parsley (minced), 2 green onions (chopped), and 1 red pepper (chopped). Then, I season with 1 teaspoon sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper & juice from a ¼ lemon and simmer for 10 minutes. Next, I add 1.5 lb (i.e. 6 salmon steaks with 1 inch thickness) to the broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Lastly, I serve salmon steaks topped with some broth and garnish with lemon rings on the side.
I am pairing this delicious poached salmon with 2008 James Hardwick Riesling (Muddy Water growers’ series) from Waipara, New Zealand. Mineral-y and floral, this wine is packed with granny smith apples, honeydew and lemon flavors with mouth-cleansing finish. The subtle character of the wine makes it absolutely sublime with the delicate poached salmon. Not only does it bring out juicy salmon meats soaked in rich chicken broth, sweet red pepper & earthy mushrooms, but it also cleans the palate with refreshing acidity in every sip. This salmon is like dancing in the breezes of the gorgeous, redwood tree covered Pacific Coast. How delightful this pairing is!
Hope the discovery of native American taste in Northern Californian brings you a lot of simple pleasures, like the redwood trees do. Happy cooking!