I remember as a school girl taking a field trip to a fish hatchery along the American River. The experience stuck in my mind. I remember running along the banks of the river with my classmates, laughing and having a great time.
I remember watching the salmon swimming up the ladder, at times their bodies completely out of the water as they made the leap to the next rung. We cheered them on. And then we went into the hatchery to witness these fish being slaughtered. I remember running back down the path, to the first rung of the ladder and shouting to the fish to turn back. No one had prepared us for the end of our tour. For a very long time, I could not eat salmon. The idea of hatcheries bothered me, while commercial fishing boats did not. I grew up fishing. I think what bothered me about hatcheries is that the salmon struggled to swim up river, struggled to jump the rungs of the ladder, to reach that place where they were born only to die an unnatural death. I think it’s in our nature to root for the underdog even when we know the outcome. But the truth of the matter is that the salmon will die no matter what. Those that are lucky enough to reach the end of the run are going to spawn before they die. It’s just a matter of what happens after death. In the case of a hatchery, the salmon are harvested and the masses are fed. As for the rest . . .
One cool fall afternoon my Dad and I went down along the river during the salmon run. We were much further down stream. We had come to gather flat river rocks for a project Dad was building in our backyard. It amazed me how the river was filled with salmon. If the fish could have supported my weight I could have walked across the river without getting wet. I also remember the smell of the fish that had died. Ravens and scavengers like coyotes snatched up the carcasses. Such is nature and the circle of life. And if you look hard enough, you will see a sense of purpose and beauty in that circle.
Mustard-Garlic Broiled Salmon
4 (4 oz) Salmon Fillets
2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Shallots, finely minced
2 Teaspoons Thyme, leaves only chopped
2 Teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/2 Lemon, juice only
1 Tablespoon Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
Coarse Kosher Salt to taste
Ground White Pepper to taste
Basil Olive Oil
1 Lemon, sliced for garnish
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Heat broiler element in the oven.
Peel and mince garlic cloves. Place garlic in a small mixing bowl.
Peel and mince shallots. Add to the bowl with the garlic.
Snip the leaves from a few Thyme sprigs. Chop the leaves and add them to the garlic mixture.
Chop fresh Rosemary and add to the garlic mixture.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the garlic mixture. Toss to blend. Add the mustard and mix with a spoon.
Lay the salmon fillets out on a cutting board. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides. Brush the fillets all over with the mustard-garlic mixture.
Transfer the salmon to the prepared pan. Broil fillets for about 7 minutes, until flaky.
While salmon is broiling, cut remaining lemon into slices for garnish. Set aside
Just before serving, drizzle a little Basil Olive Oil over the fillets then garnish the salmon with lemon slices. Place slices of lemons directly on the salmon, press and then turn the slices over. Some of the herbs and grainy mustard will stick to the lemons, giving a more textured presentation.