Candied Verlasso salmon with pomegranate seeds, arugula and pomegranate vinaigrette

What is “candied salmon?” Known as “squaw candy” by Native Americans, this delicious treat is essentially heavily smoked strips of salmon (originally smoked to the point of jerky). The way it’s most commonly prepared now is with a lacquer of sweetness, such as brown sugar, maple or birch syrup, or even molasses. Combine candied salmon into a bright, fresh holiday salad and enjoy!

Serves 6


For the Candied Salmon

  • 5 pounds skin-on Verlasso salmon fillets cut into 2-inch thick strips, pin bones removed

  • 1 pound Diamond kosher salt

  • 1 pound brown sugar

  • 1 cup maple syrup

For the Salad

  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 3/4 cup olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 cups lightly packed arugula

  • 1 pomegranate, seeds only

  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings

  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts

  • 1 shallot, sliced


For the Candied Salmon

  1. Mix the salt and brown sugar together. Find a lidded container large enough to hold the salmon. Cover the bottom of the container with about 1/4 inch of the sugar and salt mixture. Put a layer of salmon strips down on this, skin side up. Cover the salmon with more salt/sugar mixture. Cover and let cure in the fridge at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours.

  2. Remove the salmon from the cure, and rinse well. Pat dry with a paper towel and set the salmon on a drying rack skin side down. Let this dry in a breezy place for 2 hours, or in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.

    Traditionally salmon candy is cold smoked for several days. But you can do this at home in a traditional home smoker in a much shorter amount of time. Set up your smoker and maintain wood and smoke to 220 degrees F. Place the salmon on the smoker rack closest to the top. Every 90 minutes to 2 hours, paint the salmon with the maple syrup. This also helps to remove any albumen (the white residue) that can form between the fish flakes. When the salmon looks lacquered – typically about 4 hours – remove it to the drying racks again and paint it one last time with the maple syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing. Salmon candy will last a week in the fridge.

For the Salad

  1. To make vinaigrette, combine molasses, lemon juice, honey and vinegar in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while you whisk to emulsify. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

  2. Toss salad ingredients together and dress with the vinaigrette. Garnish with chunks of the candied Salmon.

    Tips to Seed the Pomegranate

    • Score the fruit around the midline. Cut deep enough to pierce the skin, but shallow enough that you don’t cut into the seeds inside.

    • Pull apart the two halves. Put your thumbs into the cuts and yank the pomegranate open, if need be.

    • Submerge the two halves in a bowl of water and gently push the edges down and away to open the fruit. The water will soften the pith (the white tissue under the skin).

    • Turn the half upside down and thwack the bejeezus out of it with the back of a spoon. Seeds will tumble out into your hand and the bowl of water below.

    • Seeds will sink to the bottom. Scoop any floating pith out of the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Drain the water.