Okay, we may have talked about meat fabrication and portioning before, but it's a topic that I really feel needs greater attention. It's not simply the fact that you can save quite a bit of money, nor is it just the fact that you can get exactly what you want – there's a growing rift between the fruits of the world and the dinner table (even to the kitchen, mind you) and anything that can narrow that rift is a great boon to chefs and cooks all over.
Buying individual, frozen, plastic-wrapped salmon filets can be convenient, sure - but you're stuck with the pre-determined sizes and the freshness is a bit... lacking.
Getting a whole filet of salmon (or a whole tenderloin, or a full New York Strip, or even a chicken fryer) helps reinforce the connection between the plate and the animal that was harvested for your dinner.
Some people demand going full-tilt, saying you can't truly experience the full impact of eating meat unless you go hunting for it yourself; there may be a bit of truth to that, but I'm not about to advocate everybody going fishing before dinner. If you can, hey, that's great! If not, don't fret about it, head over to CostCo or Sams and pick up a side of salmon. It'll make you a better cook, and you'll get a whole bunch of extra bonuses.
When you portion whatever protein you have on-hand yourself, you can pick and choose what to use and how much of each to use – and you can use everything. I love picking up chicken fryers rather than the nigh-artificial cellophane wrapped breasts. The reason is that breaking down a chicken, just like a salmon, doesn't take a ton of time – a few minutes at most. Then you can grill those breasts, toss 'em in a soup, or freeze them for later. The legs can be boned out or cut in half, or grilled whole – it's up to you. Once you break down the whole chicken, toss all the leftovers in a pot and make some stock; it's way better than canned stock, and you'll feel good using every bit of your purchase, and you won't have that giant styrofoam tray leering at you from your trashcan.
For the salmon, portion out your steaks to provide easy dietary guidelines, or ensure everyone gets an equal portion. Any trim can be roasted and made into salmon mousse or used as a filling for a salmon wellington or coulibiac (mushrooms, dill, and salmon in pastry). You can also take a whole side, brine it to make some lox or smoke it for great sandwich meats. Setting up either doesn't take much effort, and the monetary savings you'll enjoy are nothing to scoff at. So go give it a try next time you've got a party coming up. Don't just buy pack after pack of pre-portioned, overpriced, un-fresh salmon; go get a side, cut it up yourself, and wow your guests with your amazing culinary awesomeness.
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