The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Pin Bones Plus a Bitchin’ Herb Sauce

May 19th, 2007 · 5 Comments · Posted in Uncategorized

I was prepping salmon steaks for the brunch we’re catering tomorrow when my wife looked over my shoulder and asked, “Have you checked for pin bones?”

Pin bones?

Yes I do check for those little pin bones when I’m making fish fillets. You have to take a needle-nosed pliers to them and they don’t always come willingly. We don’t want anyone gagging over our fish, do we?

But I guess I don’t make salmon steaks often enough because sure enough I did begin to locate pin bones in the thick, fleshy part of the salmon steak. And not just on one side of the steak. Both sides had pin bones.

My wife was fuming.

“How much did you pay for that fish?” she asked.

“Eleven dollars sumthin‘,” I replied.

“Eleven dollars for salmon and they don’t even take out the pin bones!” she shrieked.

Well, this was a first. Because my wife then picked up the phone and called the seafood department at Whole Foods where I’d purchased the salmon and proceeded to conduct an inquisition over pin bones with the clerk who answered the call.

“Some customers like to cook the fish with the bones in it?” I heard my wife say ing in a rather sarcastic tone, obviously repeating something the clerk had said.

It wasn’t a very productive conversation. The manager of the seafood department would not be in until later in the day. But we did establish that it is policy at our local Whole Foods not to remove the pin bones from salmon steaks (or any other fish that I’ve purchased there) and that at least one of the clerks thinks customers like to cook fish with bones in it. For the flavor, presumably.

“I think that’s obscene that they don’t take out the pin bones,” my wife said. “And for $11 a pound, you get to stand there and pull out the bones!”

Actually, I think it was $11.99 a pound.

That set my wife off on a rant about Whole Foods for about the next 30 minutes. “I am so glad we are getting a Harris Teeters,” she said.

To tell the truth, it didn’t faze me at all that they don’t remove the pin bones from the salmon steaks at Whole Foods. I guess my expectations are just not very high…

But that wasn’t the theme of this post. I wanted to report back on Kevin’s suggestion for a sorrel sauce to serve with these salmon steaks.

I picked some sorrel this morning and ground it up with the mortar and pestle. But I also cheated a little. I already had a container of my up-to-now favorite Spring garlic and herb sauce, having made a bunch with the kids in my “food appreciation” classes to go with the asparagus we cooked this week.

I added the sorrel to that sauce, which only improved it.

This is my go-to sauce for poached asparagus, crudite, salmon–even roasted chicken–made with the first hearbs to appear in Spring. It’s always an improvisation, depending on what’s in the garden. So no real recipe. But you can follow this basic process:

Place a peeled garlic clove and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in the mortar and grind it almost to a liquid. Then add small handfulls of your favorite herbs, such as dill, tarragon, mint, sorrel. I also like anise hyssop in this sauce, but hyssop is not so easy to find if you don’t grow it yourself.

Grind the herbs until they are almost a liquid as well. This is great upper-body exercise. Now add mayonnaise, probably 1/2 cup, plus a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of rice vinegar, a healthy squeeze of lemon. When all of that is incorporated, give it a taste and adjust seasonings. If it’s too strong, work in some more mayonnaise.

You will probably find more uses for this sauce than I can think of. It holds well in the refrigerator. I end up snacking on it with leftover meats and vegetables.

And thanks again, Kevin, for the tip on the sorrel.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


  • MA

    Just in time! I was getting caught up with your writing today and BINGO! a perfect sauce for the salmon I am grilling tonight. (Wild, caught in Kodiak Alaska, by my husband). Plus, I happen to have three ripe avocados on the counter so will whip up a mess o’that REAL gwak for snacking. Thanks, Ed. I will think of you at dinner tonight.

  • Great Big Veg Challenge

    The sorrel is a great idea. I think it can be known as Dock as well – is that so?
    I would love to see if we can coincide with one of Freddie’s recipes and the food appreciation classes you are teaching. We could always try one of yours.
    If you are doing asparagus a Norwegian colleague of mine has told me about a great simple asparagus recipe – using simply asparagus twisted in bread dough. Apparently that is what she was given as a child.
    Do email me if you have time.
    Great Big Veg Challenge

  • deliberately

    Careful about the Harris Teeter. When I had Harris Teeter all I hoped for was a Whole Foods!

  • Ed Bruske

    Charlotte, I will e-mail you. My classes end in a couple of weeks, resume in the fall…

    deliberately, we have a Harris Teeters moving in a couple of blocks from us–great news, we think, for our grocery-neglected part of town. I’m still a Whole Foods guy, but my wife apparently has a thing for Harris Teeter. We’ll see.

  • Ed Bruske

    ma, I hope your sauce was as good as the one we served at brunch today…