Broiled Salmon Spine with Roasted Vegetables on Farfalle: Getting The Most out of Every Fish

Close to the bone, salmon meat near the skeleton is lean and tasty. Salmon spines (salmon carcasses with some meat still attached) are perfect candidates for the broiler. Add some vegetables to the broiling pan and you’ve got a gourmet meal for two.

No sooner did we return back home in Chignik Lake than we began turning our attention to filling our freezer and smoker with salmon. Wild salmon are precious, and every last bit of salmon meat is delicious. I don’t always get the fillets off the bones as cleanly as I’d like. That’s where this dish comes in. While the photos depict a Sockeye salmon, other species work well, too, and of course a fillet works as well as a spine in this recipe.

1. Position your oven rack to the second level below the broiler. Place a broiling pan on the rack and turn on the broiler to preheat the pan and the oven.

2. Chop up some of your favorite vegetables. Pick ones that are hardy enough to withstand a few minutes under the broiler. Whole garlic cloves roast up soft, slightly charred and delicious in this recipe. Fruit such as pitted olives work well, too.

3. To serve two, measure out about two cups of Farfalle pasta. Other types of pasta are fine.

Mise en place: whole garlic cloves, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, fresh oregano, sea salt, pasta and Kalamata olives. You’ll also need a good extra virgin olive oil, a broiling pan, and, of course, the salmon spine or fillet. 

4. Toss the vegetables together in a bowl along with sea salt and olive oil. Fresh or dried thyme or oregano are good herb choices.

Sprinkle salt into the vegetables to taste, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then mix together. As an additional option, a tablespoon or so of mirin – a light, sweet cooking wine – adds a hint of sweetness and helps the vegetables brown and char.

5. Next, rinse the salmon in cold water and dry and clean it with paper towels. There may be some dark matter running along the spine inside the skeletal cavity. That’s the kidney. If there’s a lot of this, you can use a knife or even a spoon to scrape it out. It can be further cleaned up with a stiff brush. A toothbrush works well for this.

6. Place the salmon spine on a cutting board and give it a fairly generous sprinkling of salt.

A good sea salt (we like gray sea salt) really brings out the flavor of salmon.

7. Take the preheated broiling pan out of the oven. Use a brush or spatula to coat the surface with olive oil. Arrange the salmon and the vegetables on the pan.  It should be sizzling hot. Place the pan back into the oven and broil for about 8 or 9 minutes.

8. While the salmon is broiling, prepare the pasta according to the maker’s directions.

Colored bell peppers and Brussels sprouts char and caramelize beautifully under a broiler.

9. After about 8 or 9 minutes, remove the broiling pan from the oven. Transfer the salmon to a cutting board and use a fork to pull the meat off the bones. You want chunks of a good size to go on a fork along with a bite of vegetable and a bit of pasta.

10. Finally, plate up the pasta. Add the salmon and vegetables. Finish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a couple of grinds of freshly cracked pepper. Serve hot with a bright Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.