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Salmon, Chanterelles, and Wild Berries: A Fabulous Pacific NW Seafood Dish

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Succulent salmon simmered in a cream sauce, wild mushrooms, and fresh berries

Succulent salmon simmered in a cream sauce, wild mushrooms, and fresh berries

Foods That Represent the Pacific Northwest

This salmon dish is truly a representation of the foods from my little corner of the world. I live in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State to be exact, on the wet (west) side of the Cascade Mountains. To the north is British Columbia, to the south is Oregon, and to the west is the Pacific Ocean.

My family and I live in a two-story farmhouse tucked deep in the woods. Our “neighbors” are Douglas fir trees and western red cedars and under their spreading branches are hazelnut trees, huckleberry bushes, and wild blackberry vines. And in autumn we have one more gift—the wild chanterelle mushroom. That is the inspiration for this dish.

What Are the Basic Ingredients?

The basic components of this dish represent some of the finest foods the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelles are a special treat in my little corner of Washington State. Their season is short and they grow under only very specific conditions. Chanterelles can't be cultivated; every mushroom is scavenged in the woods and picked by hand.

They range in color from golden to bright orange and have a ruffled cap that looks like an umbrella turned inside out by the wind. They're dense and meaty, have a nutty flavor, and have an aroma reminiscent of apricots or peaches.

Because they grow in the woods, the caps and gills tend to pick up little bits of soil or tree needles, but please don't wash them to get them clean. Use a small brush to sweep those little nooks and crannies.

Chanterelles are happy with many different cooking companions—sauté them in butter, pair them with poultry or firm white fish, add them to steamed potatoes, or douse them with cream. Alcohol such as white wine, vermouth, or sherry enhances the chanterelle’s flavors.

One more note—some mushrooms (for example, button mushrooms) can be eaten raw. Chanterelles should always be cooked before eating.

Crimini mushrooms

Crimini mushrooms

Crimini (Brown) Mushrooms

Criminis (sometimes called baby portabellas) are round and firm, and easy to clean and slice. They look like baby button (white) mushrooms but are brown/tan in color. I use them because they have more umami flavor.

Wild Pacific salmon filet

Wild Pacific salmon filet

Wild Pacific Salmon

The world of salmon can be divided into two distinct categories. If you want wild-caught salmon, you are asking for Pacific salmon. And then there is Atlantic salmon. That’s not to say that one cannot catch salmon in the Atlantic Ocean, but any Atlantic salmon that you purchase in the grocery store or at a fishmonger will be farm-raised. If you can, I recommend Pacific salmon, and these are the best:

  • King (also known as Chinook): This “king” of salmon has earned its name because it is the best tasting. It has high-fat content, and that’s what makes it so luscious.
  • Sockeye (also known as Red): The meat of this salmon is bright orange-red and rich in flavor. They are called reds because when they move upstream to spawn they develop a startlingly bright red color.
  • Silver (also known as Coho Salmon): These are so named because of their silvery skin. The flesh is bright red and is slightly less “fishy” tasting than King/Chinook.
Wild huckleberry bush

Wild huckleberry bush

Huckleberries or Blueberries

Red huckleberries are deciduous shrubs growing up to 13 feet in height. New growth is bright green; older stems are dark brown to black. Like blueberries, the flower blossoms are bell-shaped, creamy white to pale pink. The berries are round, flared at the crown end and quite small (about 1/4 of an inch across) and are orange-red to red in color.

If red huckleberries are not available in your area, fresh blueberries are a great substitute.

Wild blackberries

Wild blackberries

Blackberries

One stab of a blackberry thorn will make it clear that this sweet, edible fruit is a not-too-distant cousin of the rosebush. Blackberries are perennial fruits that blossom and grow on two-year-old canes. Native Americans used the fruits not only as food but brewed tea from the roots, used the stems to make rope, and employed the juice to dye fabrics and darken hair.

When ripe, blackberries have a deep inky sheen with purple highlights. They are succulent, soft, and juicy. Their flavor is sweet, slightly tart. The exact taste is between a green and red grape, but sweeter.

Salmon, chanterelles, and wild berries with rice

Salmon, chanterelles, and wild berries with rice

Recipe

This recipe is a family favorite—even my vegetarian daughter says it's the one thing she misses eating with us.

Ingredients

  • 18 ounces fresh salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup fresh wild berries (mix of blackberries and huckleberries, or 1/2 cup dried cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped, for garnish
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Inspect the salmon filet for bones. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Place the salmon filet, skin side down, in the saute pan. Cover and saute until cooked through, about 7 minutes (internal temperature of 145°F.)
  2. Remove salmon from the pan and set aside; cover with foil to keep warm.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the same pan and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with sherry, then add the half and half. Continue to cook until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  5. Break the cooked salmon into chunks (bite-size or a bit larger) and add to the pan. Don't include the skin (it should separate very easily from the cooked meat). Simmer for a minute or two to heat through.
  6. Serve over rice and garnish with berries, parsley, and hazelnuts.

© 2021 Linda Lum