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King Salmon belly crudo, radish and fennel slices, mandarin gastrique

This should really be called “clear out the fridge crudo” to be honest. Because that is really what it is.

“Huh”, you say, what kind of bloke just happens to have fresh king salmon belly sitting in their fridge?


And guess what? I got it for free.

This is actually my latest trick for a free lunch. It is called Whole Foods..

Now, normally I am not much of a fan of this place, however it is about the only decent place close to my work to buy some seafood. I have found that the seafood counters vary considerably depending on what Whole Foods you go to.. For some daft reason, just 10 miles difference, and you can get complete crap. Thankfully the fish is half decent at the one in Bellevue (same cannot be said the Westlake, Seattle one though..), even if the blokes behind the counter are just full of the Whole Foods (“course its fresh, it came in today” reterick.

Anyhow, I went in there looking for some squid to BBQ one night, and got chatting to the bloke behind the counter. I was hungry. I had already eaten the free bagel sample they were giving out somewhere else in the store, and since this isn’t PCC, I cannot take a piece of fruit, pretend it is for our son, and eat it myself (not that I would ever do that you understand…). So, all that is left is the fish counter.

Raw fish sampling time!!

So, I casually ask the guy if he has had the black cod raw. “Sure he says, wanna try it?”.

“Why yes, why not, that would be lovely”

(Not a bad sized sample he handed over either I have to say).

“Hmmm, not keen on that, the texture is off… I bet that king salmon is spot on though”

“Ohhhhh yeah, that king is awesome raw! wanna try some of that?”

“sure” I said, “is that a little piece of belly right there?” said I..

“yeah, lets take a sample from that” said Mr WholeFoods

“yes, lets do that” I say, trying to hide my smirk.

Well, as we all know, salmon belly is pretty gosh darn brilliant, especially raw. More fat, more silky texture.

So, after the sample, what he has left is a pretty small piece of belly – about enough for 1 person raw, but not much use otherwise.

“Here, have this on me” Mr WholeFoods says. Who am I to argue?

So, I leave the fish stand with hunger subsided, and enough king belly to do something with. SCORE!

But what to do with it? Something a little tangy, and a little sweet, with a herby fresh flavor. I had a lovely looking fennel bulb sitting in the fridge, along with some radishes that I should be eating pretty soon. To be honest, just the salmon, radish and fennel slices, a little vinegar and oil would have done me proud, but wouldn’t have been the best ever blog post. Now, I do like my citrus with raw fish. Typically I go for something somewhat tart – lemon or lime usually does the trick for me – even grapefruit when I can get a really good one. Not today though. Today was the turn of a lovely little mandarin I had sitting there. Normally I would just squeeze over the citrus, season with salt, and off we go. We can take it further than though, and make a sexy little sauce in time at all.

Enter the gastrique. This is really just like a simple syrup, but you use vinegar instead of water. Here was the turn of red wine vinegar (mainly because I had the most of it..). Equal measures of vinegar and sugar go into a saucepan, and we get it heating. When this started to gently boil, I added some of the mandarin zest. Let this cook down to about 3/4 the original volume, and then let it cool. It tasted good, but it was pretty sweet, and a little thick. So off to work on the sauce we go.

Whenever I am working on a sauce, I use a small bowl as a taster, and just work on little portions at a time. Into this small bowl I added some juice from the mandarin, and slowly spooned in some of the gastrique until I got the consistancy I was after. Since raw fish is so light and fresh, we certainly don’t want to bog it down with a syrupy sauce. Just a little thicker than just regular citrus juice is perfect.  I add a little more zest, a tiny pinch of salt, and a little squeeze of lemon juice to the mix – the lemon really helped cut the pretty sweet mandarin flavor. That was that, a quick sauce for this crudo (and something that could frankly be saved for quite a few other uses..)

Lets now talk fennel and radish. I love fennel, it is one of my favorite vegetables – along with beets and leeks. Fennel, especially raw, can be a pretty powerful taste. I didn’t want anything too powerful here, so I decided to slice the fennel paper thin using a mandolin on its thinest setting. What you end up with are these fantastic slices of fennel, that have a much more delicate mouthfeel, and a far less intrusive flavor to them. They also fold over just wonerfully, so you can play around with piling them, stacking them and so on. Radishes have a less pronounced flavor, but their bite is certianly sharp and peppery – so again, another thin slice (or could I just not be bothered to adjust the mandolin?) for the radishes.

So all that remains is to plate these together. A cute little ring of radishes, topped with the sliced king salmon belly, and finally a mound of fennel slices. A little chiffonade of fresh basil, and a few sprigs of the fennel leaves, and we are away. Oh, not forgetting the sauce – just a dribble around the edge, here and there.

This really was a great little lunch, and certainly infinitely adjustable. Next time I think I will play with some grapefruit here, or even some finely sliced kaffir lime leaves.

King Salmon belly crudo recipe, radish and fennel slices, mandarin gastrique (serves 2 as a starter)

1/2lb of king salmon belly

1 bulb of fennel, cut in half lengthwise through the middle

2 medium radishes

1/2 cup of red wine vinegar

1/2 cup of sugar

1 mandarin – zested and juiced

fresh lemon juice

sea salt

4 basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade

Start by making the gastrique. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add in some of the mandarin zest. Boil away till reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove from the heat, pour into a small bowl, and let cool – standing this in a bowl of ice water really speeds this up. Put the juice of the mandarin into a different bowl. Add a little of the gastrique to it. Mix. You want the gastrique to just thicken the juice, but you don’t want a syrup. Keep adding the gastrique until you get the constistancy that pleases you. Add in some more of the zest, until the mixture is thoroughly specked with the rind. Add a small pinch of salt, mix and then taste. If it needs a little acidity, add a little of the lemon juice.

Use a mandolin on the finest setting, and slice the fennel and radish very thin.

Cut the salmon belly into thin slices. (remove the skin if it is on the belly first)

Arrange an disk of overlapping radish on a small plate. Top with half of the salmon belly. Top this with a little of the fennel. Sprinkle over some of the basil chiffonade, and a little of the fennel leaves if you have them. Finish with a little sea salt, and drissle some of the gastrique around the plate.

Repeat for the second plate.

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17 Responses to “King Salmon belly crudo, radish and fennel slices, mandarin gastrique”

  1. Peter G says:

    Good to see people are still giving out freebies! This dish has “warm weather” written all over it…great flavour combo Matt. Nice and fresh too!

  2. maggie (p&c) says:

    ooh, lovely. our Whole Foods fish is not so great, this sounds delicious, perfect with the orange and fennel.

  3. redmenace says:

    This looks lovely and elegant. So fresh and tasty!
    I love Whole Foods, I admit. I often find generous cheese samples at the Bellevue location too!

  4. I agree that not all Whole Foods stores are great but the one in Bellevue is terrific, I think. The best store around here anyway. And the guys at the fish and meat department are always super nice.
    Nice fish you got.

  5. mike says:

    Very nice! I love the color contrast between the bright orange flash and the nice white streaks of fat.

  6. Score, indeed! I like the idea of cutting the tangerine sweetness with lemon. Wish I’d thought of that awhile back.

  7. I had mandarin juice with crudo scallops in a NYC restaurant and it was also pretty spectacular.
    WF has its little tricks… :-) The cashiers are not always aware that a tangelo is not a discounted navel, for instance. My own awareness and reluctance to correct them will probably cost me a few more days in purgatory. Anyway, I’ve already lost count.
    Great job Matt!

  8. matt wright says:

    PeterG – you gotta work it a bit, but freebies are there :D
    Maggie: Yeah, WholeFoods quality varies considerably, and you still have to use your judgement at the fish counter.
    RedMenace: We got so stuffed at the cheese counter there a few days before that meat party we threw – we were tasting so much, it was one of the best free lunches ever!
    Nurit: Yeah they are nice, the seafood guys kinda just know what is written down though, and I hate the “course it is fresh, we got it in today” bs this spill out
    Mike: thanks mate!
    Lisa: that was kind of an after thought actually, but worked out good.
    Colloquial: WF is full of tricks :D

  9. Matt – this is absolutely gorgeous. I must say that I am not a big fan of salmon but you make it so tantalizing for me! :)

  10. Marta says:

    I’m really glad to have just found your site! I love it! I really like your photos and your witty stories. I’m going to put that “eat for free” technique to the test soon! I’m the Queen of “trying to get free stuff”! This recipe lokos really elegant and refreshing, impossible to think it came from leftovers of free fish!

  11. Carolyn says:

    That looks so delicious. I like how you “fished” for it, too, in a manner of speaking. I’ve had the same experience with Whole Foods fish counter quality, but one of our NJ locations is consistently good, with lots of wild local options.

  12. Hillary says:

    I can’t stop drooling. Salmon nigiri is my favorite thing to eat…but now this might top it! :)

  13. Y says:

    What a neat little trick to score some great fish. I’ll have to try that next time ;P

  14. Giff says:

    the title of the post stopped me in my tracks :) You know, I have been debating getting a mandolin. Like you, I love fennel. I can slice nice and thin with my santoku, but it’s a *slow* carefull process. With limited space in the kitchen though, I debate more equipment. I will continue to ponder.

  15. helen says:

    That’s a fine looking piece of salmon belly. Mmm…, belly…

  16. Bryan says:

    Love your site and your photography is fantastic! The salmon looks simple, clean, and honest. Can’t wait to try it. Keep it up!


  17. robert says:

    Your recipe are simple, but looks so delicious! I like your photos!