I don't have many food dislikes. Even as a child, I had a progressive palate. The list has always been the same: hearts of palm, tripe, Ethiopian bread (Injera) and salmon. There are a few that I am not fond of, canned black olives being one, but even fewer that I refused to eat ever again. Salmon was one of the latter. As I ventured further into the culinary industry, I came to narrow that down to Atlantic salmon, specifically. Wild Pacific Salmon is, in my opinion, on a completely different level than Atlantic salmon. Most would agree, I'm sure. I am also sure that it has something to do with the farming vs. wild aspect of it but that is a different topic all together. Regardless, I never ate it. I cooked it a lot, probably tons over my career, but never ate it. On rare occasions I would give it a taste, but that's the extent of our relationship. I just accepted the fact that some things weren't meant to be.
Decades passed. Then, just recently, I sat down to a tasting for my wedding reception. The chef prepared an oven poached salmon roulade. It looked lovely, but I just put my head down and looked onto one of the other upcoming courses. "This one's not for me," I said to myself. He went onto explain how he prefers to cook salmon more gently than most chefs because hard searing and grilling tend to enhance that "fishy" taste that so many, including myself, have attributed to salmon. My head shot up. What's this? Could this be true? I tasted it. It was...good. It was better than good. He nailed it.
After the fanfare died down, I started to play with it more at home and at work. I am sticking to steaming, braising, poaching, etc... It's true. I like salmon. I have been trying to research why this is the case. I have read several scientific studies that touch on the chemical components of this conundrum. All of them agree that the chemical Trimethylamine N-oxide
begins to breakdown at the moment the fish is killed. The result is Trimethylamine. Trimethylamine is what we smell that is "fishy." The most important factor to remember is to buy fresh fish from a trusted source. The second is all in the preparation.
We refrigerate our food to prevent spoilage. We all know this. We also know that no matter how cold our refrigerators are the food in it will eventually perish. For seafood, we keep it on ice as cold as possible, to prevent spoilage. So, if icing the fish slows the chemical reaction that causes that "fishy" smell, is it safe to assume that intense heat speeds up this process?
I haven't been able to find any studies that focus on this specifically. It certainly sounds logical. If anyone finds anything related to this topic I'd love to hear about it. I would think Alton Brown would have delved into this topic by now. Until then, break out your bamboo steamers or try your hand at a court-boullion and eat some salmon damn it!