Now, when you buy salmon in the store, you only get the fillet. Getting the whole fish is a different story. I fillet the salmon on our kitchen counter (with an excellent sashimi knife I got from Japan). Aside from the fillet, I'm left with the rich belly meat, which is the bacon of salmon and is excellent fried in a pan. (What can I say, pork belly, salmon belly—it's all good.) Then there's the carcass, which usually has about a pound of meat on it. These "waste products" amount to a lot of food.
So what do you do them?
With our last fish, I made stock, layering sliced onions and thin fennel stalks and drizzling them with olive oil. Then I placed the two-and-a-half-pound liberally salted carcass on top, covering and then sweating the fish on a low flame for 20 minutes. I then added water and a cup of dry white wine to cover, simmering it for another 20 minutes. Finally, I took it off the heat and let the fish sit for an hour to release its essence. This follows Rick Moonen's method in Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion , which is now my go-to fish book. Like many chefs, he does not recommend using salmon for stock, which is a shame. Salmon stock is bursting with flavor and isn't oily. But it helps if it's very fresh.
Once the stock cooled, I strained it, and then removed the meat from the bones, ending up with a big container of salmon delicately flavored by the fennel. I ate salmon salad sandwiches for several days, though you could also make salmon croquettes, as another friend did with the remnants of her stock.
Since we had eaten our fill of fresh salmon over a couple of days, I took a remaining fillet and cut thin paillards—angled cuts a quarter inch thick, a wonderful technique I also got from Moonen's book. I salted them, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and froze them (a typical Japanese method used by home cooks). These can be taken out and cooked immediately in a toaster oven or in a broiler. They cook in about four to five minutes if frozen, or about a minute on each side if defrosted or fresh. So it's a really fast dinner.
With the stock on hand, I was thinking paella but was short a few ingredients. I went ahead anyway since I wanted to use the stock.
I sautéed a fennel bulb, an onion, half a red pepper, 2 slices of bacon, a clove of chopped garlic and an Italian sausage I had laying around. When the veggies were soft and the meat brown, I added just over a cup of arborio rice and sauteed it for a minute. Then I poured in a cup of simmering stock, with a generous pinch of saffron, stirring now and then. As the rice absorbed it, I added more. What I wouldn't have done for a dozen mussels or clams!
Halfway through, I oiled up three of the frozen paillards and put them in the broiler. They sizzled while the paella continued to cook in the stock.