Saturday, June 2, 2012

Let's Go Fishing!

I love salmon! It is one of my favorite fish and the good news is that it is good for least the wild salmon. I am going to share with you a couple simple ways to cook salmon. First, we'll discuss Poached Salmon, both wild and farm raised.
Wild Coho Salmon ready to poach

You can poach salmon in just about any liquid with herbs or spices that you like, but a very simple recipe follows:

Salmon filets, about 6 oz. per person
(This time I will poach 4 filets.)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
(Yes, this is the holy trinity commonly known as Mirepoix!)
3 slices lemon per filet, 2 go under the salmon and 1 on top
Several sprigs of parsley
3 bay leaves (1 per filet)
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc works well and is nice to sip on while you are poaching.)
Juice of 1 lemon; lemon zest*

Cut the salmon filets if necessary. Make sure there are no pin bones in the filet. Run your hand over the filet, especially along the edges, and if you feel any little bones they must be removed. Either use tweezers or grasp firmly with a paring knife against your thumb and pull them out.

Place the carrot, celery, onion, lemon, parsley and bay leaves in a large skillet.

Add the salmon filets skin side down, cold water to cover, Salt/Pepper (I like to use white pepper which is very finely ground and a little more spicy.), the wine, and the lemon juice and half of the lemon zest. Bring the water to a boil, uncovered.

Adjust heat to simmer and let fish cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the fish undisturbed (covered) for 10 minutes. then remove it carefully to a serving platter. As you remove the filet from the pan, the skin should come right off. Top with remaining lemon zest. The salmon will be perfectly done. It is delicious served either hot or cold or at room temp.
* I use a micro plane to zest lemons. Make sure you do not go deeper than the yellow color of the rind. The underlying white layer can be bitter.

Wild salmon is much firmer in texture than farm raised salmon. I actually like farm raised better for poaching as it stays very moist, whereas the wild is a bit more firm and almost dry in texture. Both cook for the same amount of time. To enhance the Wild Poached Salmon, serve with SAUCE! I am sometimes known as the 'Sauce Queen' and I like to put  sauces on just about everything. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Salmon lends itself to many different sauces so the choices are nearly endless. I like a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with salmon. Red peppers are easy to roast. Here's how...

Roasted Red Peppers
Heat broiler to high. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and put under broiler. Broil until they become blackened. Keep turning to blacken all sides. When all sides of pepper have been charred, wrap up in the foil and set aside and let them cool. Once cool, strip off the skin. This comes off very easily by grabbing a corner of skin with a paring knife and pulling the skin to release; just make sure you remove all the blackened skin. Split the pepper open (the pepper will probably split as you are skinning) and remove seeds, stem and membrane. Put peppers into a blender or mini-max or my new favorite little blender, the Ninja!, and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste, about 3 Tbsp. cream cheese (for 4 peppers), 4 Tbsp. sour cream or non-fat Greek-style yogurt and blend until smooth. If the red pepper sauce is too thick, thin it with more yogurt/sour cream.

This is the basic red pepper sauce. From here, you can add fresh chopped basil, finely minced garlic, hot pepper flakes or other herbs and spices. I like to keep it fairly pure for the salmon saucing.

Here is a salad plate of farm raised poached salmon (notice how much paler it is than the wild salmon). I have served it here on a bed of micro-greens lightly dressed with viniagrette, peeled and steamed asparagus tossed in EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), salt and a hint of balsamic vinegar, hard cooked eggs with smoked paprika garnished with the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  I got a little carried away with the red pepper garnish....this is a case where LESS is definitely MORE!, but I liked making the little blobs of sauce so just kept doing it! I think I should've used a bit more restraint! (Not my strong suit!)

I served this dish for a special birthday luncheon I put together for my friend Kim, who helped me by assembling the plates! Happy Birthday all over again, Kim!

Another very delicious sauce for poached salmon is:

3/4 cup Olive Oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large avocados, peeled and seeded
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 Poblano chilies, roasted (just as you would the red peppers above), peeled, seeded
4 scallions, white and light green thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Cilantro garnish, optional

Heat 1/2 cup of the Olive Oil in a larger skillet over medium heat.
Saute the corn with the salt/pepper about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
Cut the avocados, bell pepper, roasted Poblano into 1/4 inch dice.
Add to the sauteed corn along with the scallions, red wine vinegar, and the remaining 1/4 cup Olive Oil.
Mix well and let sit 20-30 minutes to blend flavors. (Also can be made 2-3 days ahead; stored in tightly covered container in the fridge. If you are making in advance, DO NOT add the avocado in advance. Add it just before serving.)
Serve at room temp.

A final sauce suggestion for Poached or Broiled Salmon...


Add to blender: 1/2 cup mayonaise with 3 Tbsp. finely diced garlic and a dash of Tumeric, This sauce, aka Aoili, is absolutely delicious on Poached Salmon! Tumeric is not a traditional addition to Aoili, but I love the taste and really like how it give the mayo a deep yellowish color.

Another very simple preparation for Salmon is to broil it. I like to serve Broiled Salmon on a bed of greens, like spinach or kale. Use about a 6 oz. filet (wild or farm raised) per person. Check for the pin bones and remove if necessary. Rub filets with Olive Oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and that's it! Place skin side down on an oiled baking sheet and pop into a hot broiler and broil for about 5 minutes per inch.
If you are not using Aoili, another nice way to sauce or garnish Broiled Salmon is with a little Compound Butter (not shown in this picture.).

Compound Butter does not have to be a big production, Here is a very simple way to make it:

1 lb. butter
3-4 Tbsp. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed and diced fine

Chop the butter into uniform chunks using a sharp knife and place in a bowl.
Place the EVOO into a food processor; add chives. Process until the chives are finely chopped. Add the remaining herbs and blend until the herbs have colored the oil. Keep blending until the texture of the oil softens and lightens-about 5 minutes.
Add the butter to the herb oil and blend for another 2 minutes until oil is fully incorporated.
Spoon the herb/oil/butter mixture onto waxed paper, parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll into a tight log and chill for 2 hours. Try to get all the creases out of the paper so exterior of butter log is smooth.
When ready to serve slice into 1/4 inch pieces and place on top of hot Broiled Salmon.

Compound Butter is good on just about everything: veggies, bread, rice, meats (especially if you add blue or other cheese)...use your imagination!

Wild Alaskan Salmon Cakes
If you are not able to get good fresh salmon, Wild Alaskan canned Salmon is also very good for you and delicious! Here is my recipe for Salmon Cakes.

1 can Wild Alaskan Salmon
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (I like to use a combination of whole grain crumbs that I keep in the freezer at all times.)
1 Scallion, green and white parts, sliced thin
1 Smashed and diced garlic clove
1 tsp. drained capers
1 Egg
2 Tbsp. Mayonaise
Dash of hot sauce
Dash of Worchester sauce
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil for frying

Many canned salmons now come completely cleaned (no bones or skin). If that is the case, just mix all ingredients and form into patties. Let sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to get the right consistency before frying.
Add oil to a skillet. Get oil hot and saute Salmon Cakes for about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick you make your cakes. The Cakes should have a nice brown finish and be firm.
I like to serve these with mashed avocado under the Salmon Cake and either Aioli or Roasted Red Pepper or both!
Salmon is versatile, easy to work with and yummy! Hope you enjoy these recipes or become inspired to create some new twists of your own. Please let me know what you concoct with Salmon!

See you in the kitchen again soon!

May your creative juices keep flowing, spirits remain high, and joy of cooking continue!

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