I was scrolling through Instagram recently when a piece of salmon posted by my friend Kate Consenstein caught my eye. What was this? A fillet slathered in mayo and covered in potato chips? It seemed a little wrong, but then if Kate, who knows seafood better than most, was making it, perhaps it was secretly a lot right?
Alaskan cooks are always combining wild food with self-stable, lowbrow pantry items. See: muktuk and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or saltine salmon or wild berries suspended in Jell-O atop a layer of box sheet cake or crab boiled in 7-Up or agutuk with Cool Whip. For my book, I spent a lot of time with Alaska’s community and church cookbooks, especially those from the mid-20th Century, and I can attest to the generous use of both mayo and crushed potato chips, especially in seafood casseroles. But this recipe? It felt bold.
Kate lives nearby, so we went for a socially distant mid-winter walk and talked about that feeling you get in the late winter, when you’re trying to come up with a new way to cook last season’s frozen salmon on a Tuesday night. This recipe is aimed right at that. The one Kate made was developed by the brilliant Maya Wilson—of The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook fame—for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, a brand stewarded by Alaska fishermen. They commissioned Maya to come up with recipes that could be made simply with just a few ingredients found anywhere, even at a sparsely stocked rural grocery store or a gas station. (It was, though, Kate’s idea.)
And so I tried it. And I loved it. The flavor has a tangy fish-n-chips vibe. The crunch satisfies. I tested several kinds of chips. Lay’s Salt & Vinegar mixed with a handful of Kettle dill pickle packs just the right punch, IMHO. Do not use fancy thick-cut chips. They don’t crush right. I also tested with my favorite Kewpie mayo, but that really didn’t stand up to classic Best Foods. Kate likes to stir a little Barnacle Foods Bullwhip Hot Sauce into the mayo. I always take her advice. Here’s my take the Kate/Maya recipe.
- 1 pound salmon fillet
- sea salt
- 2 tablespoons Best Foods mayonnaise
- A splash of hot sauce
- 2 cups potato chips (a mix of salt & vinegar with an optional handful of dill pickle or jalapeño chips)
- chives, chopped
- ½ lemon
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cover a sheet pan with parchment. Very generously salt fish and arrange on the pan. Place chips in a plastic bag and crush them into pieces, roughly the diameter of a pea. Stir hot sauce into the mayo, and spread a thick coat of mayo mix onto the salmon. Press the potato chips onto the mayo to form a crust. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from the oven when the top is just a touch browned but the center is still rare. Squeeze lemon over hot fish and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.
This recipe was published in Edible Alaska.