Lomi Lomi Salmon on The Last Cruise

I truly enjoyed my vicarious trip aboard the 1950s vintage ocean liner, Queen Isabella, on  The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen.  Before heading to a scrapyard, the dowager vessel is making her last run, a final voyage to Hawaii and back, with all the bells and whistles, highlighting an era of luxury cruising.  The novel gives us a terrific peek into life behind the scenes with various passengers, an owner, the kitchen crew, and  relationships within a Jewish String Quartet, also facing the end of their careers.

From the Publishers:
"For the guests on board, among them Christine Thorne, a former journalist turned Maine farmer, it's a chance to experience the bygone mid-20th century era of decadent luxury cruising, complete with fine dining, classic highballs, string quartets, and sophisticated jazz. Smoking is allowed but not cell phones--or children, for that matter. 
But this is the second decade of an uncertain new millennium, not the sunny, heedless fifties, and certain disquieting signs of strife and malfunction above and below decks intrude on the festivities. Down in the main galley, Mick Szabo, a battle-weary Hungarian executive sous-chef, watches escalating tensions among the crew. Meanwhile, Miriam Koslow, an elderly Israeli violinist with the Sabra Quartet, becomes increasingly aware of the age-related vulnerabilities of the ship herself and the cynical corners cut by the cruise ship company, Cabaret.  When a time of crisis begins, Christine, Mick, and Miriam find themselves facing the unknown together in an unexpected and startling test of their characters."

Meanwhile, Christine's journalist roommate, Valarie, is using the shipboard situation for research on a book project. The various inter relationships work well to provide a fascinating look at conditions above and below decks, something like Upstairs Downstairs. I'm looking forward to reading more of Christensen's books.

The food and entertainment themes for the voyage were also retro, with classic '50s fine dining fare.  In a nod to their destination, Hawaiian food and music also made a showing.  Thus I am featuring a local classic, Lomi Lomi Salmon, to go with the book review.  A good friend brought back some wild caught salmon from Alaska and it was put to good use in this dish.  Lomi Salmon calls for salt salmon, so the salt cure came first.  Back in the day, the sailors would salt it before their voyage to Hawaii, now they freeze and ship.

Curing Salmon 
   Courtesy of The Kitchen

Fresh salmon (at least 1 pound, cut into two equal pieces)
1/4 cup brown sugar (per pound of fish)
2 tablespoons kosher salt (per pound of fish)
1 tablespoon smoked salt (per pound of fish)
1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper (per pound of fish)

1. Combine Salt Cure Ingredients
The process starts by mixing the two salts (you can use just kosher if you wish), pepper and sugar in a small bowl or zip top bag. Combine thoroughly and make sure that the sugar is evenly distributed amongst the salt granules.
2. Check For Pin Bones
Even though your local butcher or fish monger should have de-scaled and removed all the pin bones from your fish before receiving it, that doesn't mean there won't still be a few left. Run your finger along the fillet to make sure they're all gone! Use needle nose pliers (clean ones please) to remove any stragglers.
3. Lay Out Plastic
There aren't many times we tell you to use plastic wrap around these parts, but this is one of them. Lay out two lengths side by side and slightly overlapping on your countertop, at least 3 feet in length. (Note: I used banana leaves next to the fish with the plastic underneath.)
4. Place Fish On Plastic and Apply Salt Mixture
You'll want to place your fish on the plastic side by side. Cover each piece of fish (don't forget the sides) completely with the salt and sugar mixture. The goal is to be able to flip the two pieces on top of each other while they rest. So leave an inch or so spacing between and don't worry about applying the mixture to the skin side.
5. Fold and Wrap
Fold the two halves of fish on top of each other, flesh sides together. You might have a little mixture fall from the fish and that's ok. You'll want to wrap the plastic around the fish to keep all the salt and sugar mixture in, but you don't want to wrap it too tight. What's too tight, well that part is up to you. You want the juices to escape as the salt works it's magic, so wrap it up, but don't suffocate it.
6. Assemble Your Bowls
Take a large glass bowl (you can use plastic, but it will forever be your fish bowl after that) and turn a small glass bowl upside down in the center of it. Next place your fish on top of the smaller bowl.
7. Add A Plate and Wrap It Up
Although the juices will naturally flow from the fish once the mixture starts to do it's thing, it is a huge (huge) help to apply a little pressure. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply lay a plate over the top of the fish. Place your plate on the fish and then cover the large bowl with an additional layer of plastic wrap. This will keep the fish smells down in your fridge and you won't even know it's there.
8. Rinse, Rinse, Rinse
Once your 5 days come to a close, rinse off all the salt and sugar from it's skin and flesh side. (note: You can rinse it again later after cutting if it's still too salty)
Now we're ready to Lomi Lomi (which means massage in Hawaiian):

Lomi Lomi Salmon

    * 1 lb. salt salmon
      preferably hook caught fresh wild Coho ;-)
    * 2-3 tomatoes
      you'll be removing most of the seeds and
      juice, so a meatier variety of tomato works
      well. Dice into pencil eraser sized pieces.
    * 2 medium onions, diced
      Preferably Kula onions, but any of the
      Sweet varieties work.
    * 3 green onions, thinly sliced

You'll want to soak the salt salmon filet in cold water for 3-6 hours, changing the water several times. On your last water change, add a tray or so of ice cubes, as lomi lomi salmon is best when it's very cold. It's also easier to dice, which is the next step.

Drain the salmon, and remove all bones and skin. Dice the salmon into small cubes, about the size of a pencil eraser. It's ok to use any smaller pieces, so as not to waste any of the salmon filet.

Put the salmon cubes, diced tomatoes, and diced sweet onion in a glass bowl. Gently combine them with your fingers.  It is not traditional, and totally optional, but I added in the juice of 1/2 a lime, just for flavor and contrast. Some people add in cilantro and jalapeno pepper, minced.  At this point, you can cover the glass bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Again, lomi lomi salmon is best served very cold. Prior to serving, add a half dozen or so ice cubes (or better yet, a cup of shaved ice) and the sliced green onion. Toss gently and serve with a slotted spoon; on a bed of mixed micro greens if you like.  Perfect with roast pork, poi and fried rice!  

I'm sharing with the folks over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather's group at her Foodies Read Challenge, finishing off the December Read.  I hope you'll check out both spots for some good reading and cooking ideas.  Happy New Year all!!


Wendy Klik said...

I will have to put this book onto my queue. Thanks Claudia.

Tina said...

No cell phones or children would make for a relaxing time. Sounds like a good book and thanks for that step-by-step on the salmon prep.
Happy new year!

Mae Travels said...

It's intriguing to think about what a cruise actually crossing the Pacific would have been like in the fifties. So much has changed since then! I was curious about lomi lomi salmon since all its ingredients originate outside Hawaii -- but evidently tomatoes and onions were introduced in the early 19th century, and the salted salmon (not a local fish) came with ships a bit later. So it's been a tradition for a long time even if not from pre-Captain Cook days.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Beth F said...

Thanks for this recipe. I've missed lomi lomi salmon -- I haven't had it in years and years since I last worked in Hawaii. Now I can make it myself!

Carole said...

Happy New Year! Cheers from carole's chatter