Make Sockeye Salmon Crudo Your New Summertime Staple

Chef William Dissen shares a recipe from his new cookbook “Thoughtful Cooking”

May 23, 2024 6:43 am
Chef William Dissen's sockeye salmon crudo.
Chef William Dissen's sockeye salmon crudo has a standout ingredient.
Johnny Autry

Welcome to the InsideHook Guide to Summer, a collection of recommendations on everything worth doing, drinking, eating, watching and otherwise enjoying between now and Labor Day. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

The first culinary contestant to out-cook multiple-Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay on Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, North Carolina-based chef William Dissen knows his way around the kitchen. The author of the newly released cookbook Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes Rooted In the New South, Dissen now also knows his way around the keyboard following the completion of his book.

Contained in that tome, which includes sustainability-themed favorites from the hills and valleys of Appalachia, is a recipe for sockeye salmon crudo, a raw seafood dish that’s ideal for cooling down during the summer heat despite featuring Jimmy Nardello peppers as one of its most prominent ingredients.

Named for the son of the Italian couple who immigrated to Connecticut in the 1800s with pepper seeds from their village in their pockets, the Jimmy Nardello, which is botanically classified as Capsicum annuum, is a surprisingly sweet heirloom pepper variety that can add flavor and a refreshing crunch to many dishes.

“Jimmy Nardello isn’t your cousin from New Jersey who works in waste management,” Dissen tells InsideHook. “It is a sweet Italian frying pepper that lends itself to slicing and eating raw or roasting over an open flame for more depth of flavor. We have a number of farmers in the Asheville area who grow these peppers every year and they have become one of my favorites to use. I love that they are long and skinny. They add this slight spice and sweetness that I think accents well with raw fish.”

And that’s exactly what crudo, the Italian word for “raw” and not be confused with its Peruvian cousin ceviche, is.

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“Fish is something that’s near and dear to me and I just love crudo in the summer with a glass of sparkling wine,” Dissen says. “On a hot day sitting outside in the shade, eating raw seafood is refreshing. It’s delicious, it’s not heavy and it’s typically really bright and full of flavor. I’ve never done this recipe in a restaurant, but I really enjoy it in the summertime.”

Besides the temperature, Dissen’s slightly sweet and spicy crudo is an excellent summertime staple because of the prevalence of its base ingredient: sockeye salmon.

Salmon is a fish you can get regularly around the world. “Especially in the U.S. in the middle of summer, there are bountiful amounts of sockeye salmon available,” Dissen says. “Sockeye salmon is considered one of the most sustainable species of fish on the planet and it’s also a species that freezes very well. You see it in stores throughout the year because they’re selling flash-frozen-at-sea salmon.”

So, frozen works. But if you can get it fresh, all the better, according to Dissen.

“For crudo, I want the seafood to really shine,” he says. “If you’ve got fresh fish, it’s almost like eating Japanese sashimi except you’re dressing it with fresh citrus and olive oil versus it just being sliced straight up on a plate. You’re adding a little acid to it. I’m a big fan of using acid in this dish because I feel a fattier fish like salmon needs something to cut through. Paired with a fattier fish, the right amount of acid allows the fish to taste even better, in my opinion. You’re letting the fat and the flavors in the fish shine through.”

Here’s how.

William Dissen’s Sockeye Salmon Crudo

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hr

Servings: Serves four

  • For the Pine Nut Za’atar:
  • 2 ½ tbsp. ground sumac
  • 2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 1 ½ tbsp. toasted benne seeds (may substitute sesame seeds)
  • 1 ½ tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • For the Crudo:
  • ½ cup ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1 lb. sockeye salmon, pin bones removed
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 torpedo onion, no tops, cut into ¼-inch rings
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 Jimmy Nardello peppers, sliced into rings
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 ruby grapefruit, cut into supremes
  • 1 cup purslane
    1. Prepare the Za’atar: Combine the sumac, pine nuts, benne seeds, thyme and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep for up to 1 month at room temperature.

    2. Place the grapefruit juice in a small saucepan, set over medium high heat and cook until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a small container, cover and refrigerate until cold.

    3. Place the salmon into the freezer until firm to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes.

    4. Place a small cast iron pan over high heat, until very hot, 4 to 5 minutes. Place the torpedo onion rings in the pan so they are flat and cook until the onions are completely charred on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the onions to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to steam for 5 minutes. Remove the plastic and separate the onions into smaller rings. Set aside to cool.

    5. Remove the salmon from the freezer and set on a cutting board, skin side down. Use a very sharp knife to cut through the flesh, as close to one end of the filet as possible. Stop before slicing through the skin. Rotate the blade so it’s parallel between the flesh and the skin. Holding onto the skin with your other hand, slice away from you, using a back-and-forth motion, while pulling the skin towards you. You should completely remove the skin. Trim the fillet of any uneven edges, and cut it into 2 long pieces, using the natural seam in the center of the fillet as a guideline.

    6. Holding a knife at a 45º angle to the fish, slice the fish as thinly as possible without the fish falling apart (about 1/8” thick). Transfer the fish to each of the 4 plates.  If not serving immediately, transfer the fish to a plate and cover with plastic wrap and hold under refrigeration until needed.

    7. Spoon 1 tbsp. of the reduced grapefruit juice and 1 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil over the fish on each plate. Sprinkle with sea salt.

    8. Garnish each plate with onions, peppers, tomatoes, grapefruit, and purslane. Sprinkle ½ tsp. of the za’atar over the fish and serve immediately.


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