Salmon sportfishermen who are used to gutting, cleaning, and filleting their catches—and who don’t discard the salmon heads or use them for bait—can use the bones and head to make a lovely stock, beautifully pale peach in color. If you don’t go salmon fishing or have friends who fish, ask your fishmonger to save you a salmon head that has the gills removed.
Salmon stock needs only an hour to simmer. Cooking the stock too long gives it a bitter taste.
1 salmon head (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
1 small onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
5 black peppercorns
6 cups cold water
1 cup dry white wine
Rinse the salmon head and remove the gills, if necessary, leaving the gill plates intact. Using a sharp knife, split the salmon head in half lengthwise. Place the salmon in a 6-quart saucepan and add the onion, garlic, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns to the pan. Add the water and wine. The fish head should be completely submerged; if not, add a bit more water. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a bare simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour.
Using tongs or a large, slotted spoon, transfer the pieces of salmon and the vegetables to a large fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl to catch all the juices. Do not press on the solids. Pour the stock through the sieve into the large bowl. Discard the solids. Let the stock cool. (To cool the stock quickly, set the bowl in a larger one filled with ice water, or a sink with about 2 inches of ice water.) Stir the stock occasionally to help cool it down. Cover and refrigerate the stock for up to 2 days. Once the stock is chilled, skim any congealed fat from the surface using the side of a large spoon. To keep the stock longer, transfer to a freezer container, allowing 1 inch of headspace, and freeze for up to 6 months.
Makes 5 cups