I will freely admit I'm about to bastardize a holiday tradition here, but I'm going to argue that St. Patrick's Day is a holiday that reached peak bastardization with the invention of green beer, so it's all fair game at this point.
I've stolen the genius idea for corned beef tacos from Sam Sifton and changed the beef to salmon, because I adore fish tacos, and also because last year in his article about homemade corned beef, there was a throwaway line about another chef making corned salmon every year. I was instantly fascinated. How does one corn salmon? Wouldn't fish be utterly ruined if you use the same process as corning beef? I wanted to find out!
This year, I googled "corned salmon" and it seems that there is some sort of consensus that you shouldn't subject salmon to the same process as beef when corning it. At least, all the recipes I found for corned salmon skipped the five-day bath in a spiced brine, and none called for using pink curing salt, either. I suspect fish does not do well in a week-long watery grave and that sodium nitrite is maybe a little harsh for it. Instead, most recipes called for rubbing a piece of fish with kosher salt and spices and letting it sit for a mere 45 minutes. How boring.
But then! I found a recipe from Andrew Zimmern that was more along the lines of what I wanted to try. Still a salt and spice rub, but marinated for up to 18 hours, and including salmon flavor buddies like parsley and dill. So, basically a piece of salmon that is partially cured and then cooked? LET'S DO THIS.
The salmon is succulent and well-flavored. The slaw is spicy. The jalapenos are spicy. And the flour tortillas are warm and perfect. These are some of my favorite fish tacos I've ever eaten and you should get on this immediately.
Corned Salmon Tacos
For the salmon:
- 1/2 cup minced dill
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 1/3 cup salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbs pickling spices
- 2 tsp smoky salt
- 3 lb salmon fillet, skin on
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon
For the slaw:
- 1 small head green cabbage (or 1/2 medium-large size cabbage), thinly sliced or shredded
- 3 carrots, shredded
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tbs greek yogurt
- 3 tbs cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbs tabasco
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the tacos:
- 12 flour tortillas
- 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
- Prepare the salmon: Grind the pickling spices, then add to a bowl with the parsley, dill, garlic, salts, and sugars, and lemon zest and juice.
- Place the salmon skin side down on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Pack the curing mixture on the surface of the salmon. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap and refrigerate 16-18 hours, overnight, on a rimmed baking sheet.
- When ready to make tacos, mix the slaw. Mix the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayo, greek yogurt, cider vinegar, tabasco, and salt and pepper. Pour half the sauce over the cabbage and carrot mixture and toss to coat evenly. Season with more salt if needed. Set aside and refrigerate a few hours ahead, if possible. The salt will help soften the cabbage and release moisture, adding to the sauce.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap salmon and wipe off the curing mixture with a damp towel. Bake salmon until just done and flakes apart, about 15-20 minutes.
- Warm the tortillas and shred the salmon. Pile in to the tortillas, then top with the slaw and some sliced jalapeno, and more of the sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.
- The original recipe called for marinating the salmon for 16-18 hours, but I think you could safely go up to 24. Any longer and you are on your way to gravlax, so I wouldn't push it.
- Use the best quality salmon you can find. You wouldn't waste effort on corning a sub-par piece of brisket, would you? Here, you don't want to put all this effort and time into a piece of farmed, dyed for color salmon either.