Before we settled down in Montana, Noah and I spent four years living and working in Juneau, Alaska, LAND OF SALMON. Sometimes it felt like salmon, crab, and wild berries practically fell from the sky there, which helped make up for the 300+ days of cold rain, which also falls from the sky there. Juneau, located in the temperate Tongass rainforest, is not a great place for farming, and nearly all of our produce had to be flown or ferried in. We made up for our bruised and battered veggies by eating lots and lots of salmon.
One day, a neighbor knocked on our door with a dish of his smoked salmon spread and a package of crackers. He had lived his whole life on the shores of Juneau’s Fritz Cove, fishing and living off the land and sea, and he knew how to do smoked salmon. It was sockeye– the most flavorful of the five varieties of salmon. He had caught a mess of them that drizzly morning from his aluminum boat. He cleaned and filleted the salmon, rubbed it with seasoning, and ever so gently bathed it in alder wood smoke. When he handed me the little dish, the fish was still warm from the smoker and glistening with Omega-3’s. It was in luxuriously large morsels and tossed with a light cloak of mayonnaise and not much else.
I fell in love, and hard. My mouth is watering as I type this. It is a taste memory that has planted itself firmly in my mind, as the standard by which I will always measure smoked salmon spread.
But alas, there was no way to get more. I couldn’t pull the salmon warm from the smoker every time I wanted salmon spread. I don’t even own a smoker. And now I live in Montana where it’s the salmon that needs to be flown or trucked in from the coast. But what it did was inspire me. I had gotten my first taste of truly decadent smoked salmon spread for free, and was hooked. Now it was time to set out to create the salmon spread of my dreams– loaded with fish, and adorned with the right accouterments. I was off to chase the smoked salmon spread dragon.
This recipe was first published in a food column I wrote for the Juneau Empire. It was called Local Flavor and featured recipes and stories about cooking with local ingredients. I titled the article, “Alone with the Perfect Salmon Spread,” a precarious place to be when developing, testing, and sampling this recipe. The standard I shoot for when I develop a recipe is to arrive at the point where I taste, and almost involuntarily want to taste again, and again, and again. That’s what happened in our tiny Alaskan kitchen overlooking those salmon-filled waters. Not much about the recipe or my penchant for indulging in extra ‘quality control’ with it has changed since then. Now, I just plan ahead and make extra : )
And I always, always use wild Alaskan smoked salmon. Especially now that farmed salmon may be genetically modified and doesn’t require labeling. Boo. Sometimes I wonder if all these GMO’s are the reason we have so many food allergies and autoimmune disorders in the first place. A consideration for those of us with hypothyroidism is that farmed salmon feed commonly contains genetically modified soy, and soy is a somewhat controversial ingredient for those of us with hypothyroidism to consume.
I know, not all farmed salmon is created equal, and I believe that we’re going to need to figure out a way to farm healthy fish if we earthlings are going to keep eating it at our current rate, but buyer beware. Do your homework, ask your fishmonger the hard questions, or make it easy by purchasing wild Alaskan salmon.
The holidays are a time for decadence, and this smoked salmon spread hits the right notes for holiday parties and gatherings. It also comes together darn quick, which is important this time of year when we must actively carve out space and time for those magic holiday moments to occur; the ones that happen when we have space simply to be rather than do, especially with our loved ones. Share a dish of this with them. It’s choc full of things that taste good and are good for you, with a little extra-special love in between. Back then, I suggested a buttery wheat cracker. Now I suggest a gluten-free option like rice thins or Mary’s Gone Crackers with Caraway. I hope you, your friends, and your family enjoy it as much as I do.
Happy Holidays from Hypothyroid Chef. May you enjoy good health throughout the season and many more to come.
- The Omega-3 fats found in wild salmon and walnuts can help combat inflammation caused by hypothyroidism.
- Wild salmon is one of the best natural food sources of iodine, which is essential to the production of thyroid hormone. Please Note: Iodine consumption can be detrimental to those with Hashimoto’s. For more information, please read this article.