October 17, 2011
The journey not the arrival matters.
An old school angle of using moist heat to envelope this savory, pink friend.
Appearing in the ancient Roman cookbook, Apicius’s De re Coquinaria, poaching has been in kitchen parlance for centuries. But, not until the 17th century, when fire became more manageable, did the technique truly blossom into vogue. The French call this method frisson, which is a moment of intense excitement—a shiver, a shudder, a thrill [from the Old French friçon, a trembling, from the vulgar Latin *frictio (friction), a derivative from Latin frigēre, to be cold]. Not to be boiled aggressively, but gently slipped into and simmered in an oh so delicate aromatic liquescence.
A detour worth embracing, indulging.
3/4 C shoyu
3/4 C water
1 T raw sugar (turbinado)
2 star anise
8 green peppercorns
2 dried guajillo or ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved
1 1/4 lb salmon fillet, cut into two portions
Bunch of scallions, trimmed and halved
Combine the soy sauce, water, sugar, star anise, pepper corns and chiles in a heavy, deep skillet. Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the fish and enough liquid to completely cover the fish. Bring to a lively simmer. Poach until the salmon is just slightly opaque, about 10-12 minutes, turning once as the liquid becomes a glaze. Remove and discard the star anise, peppercorns and chiles.
Serve over jasmine rice, ladled with the sauce and garnished with the scallions.
July 18, 2010
Somewhere in a fluorescent lit, smoke filled church basement…
G: “Hi, my name is G. and I am a seared salmon…well, you know—aholic.”
Chorus (in unison): “Hi, G.”
G: “I just don’t know how or where to start. It’s terribly difficult for me to admit to you that I have become a convert to this fish. I had stayed salmon sober for years—what with the blatant overuse of this oily animal on restaurant menus…those stupid salmon Caesars, salmon surf and turf and the like. And the malodorous nature of that beast on the stovetop which lingers in the house. That persistent salmon stench. Now, except for the wild Alaskan and tank farmed ones, salmon are becoming fished out. I thought sustainability would deliver me. Yet, after constant pressure from her, I finally succumbed. I was weak, I know. How guilty I now feel. Who ever thought this would happen to me?”
Member of Chorus: “Well done, G. A good start—admitting you are powerless. Please go on. You are with friends and with Him.”
G: “Please understand I don’t want to mislead you…I have secretly reveled in smoked salmon over the years. But, it was few and far between, so I felt under control. I mean, I am a caper addict, so it was hard to turn down those little berries on that tempting pink meat dressed in crème fraiche and adorned with dill. Looking back, I guess that smoked salmon was really my gateway substance. I felt I could stop with a little of that, here and there. Just dabble some. But, I guess not because there were also those secretive times with salmon roe. Those buttery little eggs, and the way they popped between your teeth, were too hard to resist.”
Member of Chorus: “Now you’re talkin’…an unmanageable and insane life, just as He likes it. Keep it up.”
G: “Thanks. Sorry, I’m a little nervous. As you know, I am a first timer…a rookie at sins and confessions. I mean telling a group of total strangers about my innermost wants and needs and downfalls is a little dismaying to say the least. And to let on that I allowed her, of all people, to persuade me to savor it makes me feel almost cowardly.”
Member of Chorus: “It’s all cool, man. I’ve been there, and, ya know, we’re here to help, and…and so is He. And to start so soon admitting your shorcomings to Him is a leap, ya know, of faith.”
G: “I am not sure what to do—now that I have admitted to this dark craving to her and now to you. Of course, I have not told her about how much I adored my times with the roe. For so long, I told her that salmon did not interest me, that it did little for me. So, she just enjoyed it on the side when I wasn’t there. And even shared it with our friends when I wasn’t home. Can you blame her for those indiscretions? I mean I had my flings with smoked ones and the trysts with roe. She kept telling me how good it was, endlessly encouraging me to try it. Now I know she was just preying on my ever addictive personality. A noggin chocked with maladjusted hormones and neurotransmitters gone awry. Damn that rough hewn limbic system. All she had to do was just barely set the hook, and that she did…despite my efforts to ward off her temptations. She simply seduced me into seared salmon, knowing I couldn’t help myself. And once I took a bite of that apple, there was no turning back. Now it is me, not her, that suggests we have it. I seek it, I order it, I de-bone it, I sear it, and then we partake—usually, but not always, without guilt. And now others have become aware of my shortcomings, my inability to just say ‘no.’ It’s public knowledge in our circle of friends, and it’s a little humiliating that others know I felt so powerless and succumbed to the temptation. Even just last week we lunched on seared salmon with a beurre rouge reduction. It’s in season, you know. And it was indecently intoxicating. Try some…make it a lusty habit or just dally in it. And before I close…pray tell, who is Him?”
SEARED SALMON WITH BEURRE ROUGE REDUCTION
2 center cut, skinned Alaskan salmon fillets, about 1 1/4 lbs
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 t tarragon leaves, chopped
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
1 1/2 C dry red wine
1/4 C red wine vinegar
Freshly ground white or black pepper
3 fresh tarragon sprigs
1 bay leaf
8 T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1 fresh lemon, zested
Capers, drained and rinsed
Season salmon with salt, pepper and tarragon. Add garlics and heat heavy large skillet over medium high. Heat garlics, swirl throughout the pan and then remove.
Add and then sauté the salmon over medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, carefully lifting the salmon with a spatula to loosen it from the pan when done. Turn and cook until the salmon is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more. The skin should be crisp and the flesh medium rare.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the pan juices, then add the shallots. Sauté them just until they just turn light brown. Deglaze the pan by adding wine and wine vinegar. Allow to heat, then whisk in salt and pepper and add tarragon and bay leaf. Keep cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half. Then remove from heat and start more vigorously whisking in cold butter, one tablespoon at a time. Get each piece of butter melted and fully whisked in before adding the next. Please take your time as it may be a short while to incorporate all the butter, about 8-10 minutes. The idea is to avoid the beurre rouge from separating.
Plate, then drizzle beurre rouge over salmon and top with some lemon zest and capers.
February 13, 2010
I’ll love you dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street.
~W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening
The Vancouver Winter Olympics have been unleashed, albeit with a tragic opening on the luge course. Young slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia, suffered a fatal crash on a training run on day one. A sad, somber start to these games which are so brimming with hope and passion.
First Nations refers to the indigenous peoples of what is now Canada, with the exception of the arctic Inuit and peoples of mixed ancestry called Métis. The Pacific Coast First Nations refer to those those that trace their ancestry to the aboriginal people that inhabited the land that is now British Columbia prior to the European invasion and brutal colonization of the Americas. Centuries of scorched earth policies and ethnic cleansing followed. Indigenous civilizations under European occupation were severely dismantled, many eliminated, and vast numbers of the people exterminated.
A sumptuous pairing of earth and ocean, cedar plank grilled salmon likely originated with natives in the Pacific Northwest, including those who inhabited Vancouver Island. The name sockeye is actually believed to be derived from the Coast Salish name “sukkai,” translated as “fish.”
Typically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. So, natives would spear or club the then plentiful salmon from the shores of inland streams during the annual spawning runs in the late summer or early fall. The fish were brought back home for cleaning and smoking, then stored for the hard winter months ahead. The catch was hung over open fires or tacked to native cedar slabs and then slowly cooked, absorbing the natural flavors from the smoke, fire and wood. Later, huts were built to collect and further intensify the flavors and aromas.
The earliest written recipe for plank cooking appeared in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1911, authored by the venerable Fannie Farmer.
MISO GLAZED GRILLED SALMON ON CEDAR
1/2 C red miso
1/2 C mirin
3 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T honey
3 T soy sauce
1/4 C green onions, minced
2 T fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 T sesame oil
1 T wasabi powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 salmon fillets, 8 oz each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together the miso, mirin, rice vinegar, honey, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, wasabi powder and cayenne in a medium bowl. Reserve enough of this miso glaze in another bowl to brush on salmon while grilling.
Remove any remaining bones from salmon fillet. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the salmon in a baking dish, pour the miso marinade over, and turn to coat well. (You may prefer to use a heavy, zippered plastic bag.) Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, turning a few times.
Meahwhile, soak cedar plank in salted cold water for no less than 2 hours, totally immersed, then drain.
Prepare grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium high. Arrange salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank and then place in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Brush with miso glaze once or twice during the grilling process.