I spent this past weekend up north with four of my dearest friends from high school. We had an fabulous visit, as we always do — sipping wine, catching up on each other’s lives, and reminiscing about the old days, when we grew up together in Rochester, Minnesota.
I fully admit that I revert back to the mid-80’s when I’m with this particular group – we tend to eat a lot of junk food, and imbibe on a few more cocktails that we typically do in our normal daily lives. Of course, we put on our 80’s music; this year, our playlist for the weekend was (naturally) monopolized by Michael Jackson. We stay up ENTIRELY too late (3:10 a.m, thank you very much), dance around in our pajamas, laugh our faces off, and of course, enjoy every minute we have together.
I usually come home from our annual get-together completely exhausted and yes, slightly hungover, needing an alcoholic / caloric detox. So it’s no surprise I was craving ‘light and healthy’ for dinner on Monday night, and decided to go with the Wild Caught Alaskan King Salmon that’s on sale this week. Limes are also on special, 5 / 1.00, so I chose a Soy Lime Sauce to go along with the fish. I served it on a bed of Coconut Rice with Scallions and Cilantro, and it was a big hit with the Husband and the kids.
The salmon was ‘sear-roasted’, which is a simple, two step technique that restaurant chefs use to get a gorgeous brown crust on different cuts of meat, poultry, or fish. The food is quickly seared in a hot, hot pan before going into the oven, where it finishes cooking evenly. If you can master this skill, you will look like a total pro in the kitchen! This salmon is the perfect recipe for learning the sear-roasting process.
First of all, you’ll need a heavy, oven-proof pan, preferably not non-stick. The coatings on non-stick pans generally ‘can’t take the heat’ of a super-hot oven. You’ll want to heat up your pan over a pretty hot flame (I would call it ‘medium high’); it should be hot enough that a drop of water will evaporate almost immediately on contact with the pan.
Next, add in your oil, and give it a swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. I don’t ever measure; I just add enough oil so that the bottom is nicely coated. Please don’t skimp, or your fish might stick to your pan, and I would hate to see that happen.
Making sure your salmon is completely dry and nicely seasoned, add the fish to the pan, skinned side up (or, ‘pretty side’ down). Please, please, please don’t crowd your pan. Crowding your fish will cause them to steam instead of sear. If you have to sear the fillets in two batches, that’s okay.
Now. Here is the secret, and it is a big one. The key to your searing success is to … are you ready? Listen closely, please.
DO NOT FIDDLE WITH THE FISH. Do not touch it, do not scoot it around, do not play with it for a full three minutes. Got it? I’m serious. ‘Cause if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!
I didn’t make that up, I heard a chef say it once and it’s become my searing motto. Catchy, right?
When three minutes have passed, you may gently peek at the underside of the fish. Your salmon should have a beautiful, golden brown crust. Gently flip the fish over, drizzle it with a bit of sauce (as indicated in the recipe), and place the pan in the oven. Proceed with the next few steps, then sit back and enjoy the praise that your family will heap upon you at the dinner table.
Oh, one last note: since I never seem to learn, I give myself a big red flag reminder that the pan (which came out of the oven just a short while ago) is still really, flippin’ HOT. I now like to leave the potholder on the handle of my pan so as not to burn the heck out of myself… which I’ve done before, and it’s pretty awful. Just a little tip, for what it’s worth. Safety first, my friends!
Sear Roasted Salmon with Soy Lime Reduction
Adapted from Epicurious.com
- ½ stick butter (try the Alcam, it’s on sale this week)
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ t. red pepper flakes
- ¼ c. brown sugar, packed
- ¼ c. fresh lime juice (please, for goodness sake, do not use bottled lime juice. Blech.)
- ¼ c. soy sauce
- 1 t. cornstarch dissolved in 1 t. water
- 4 – 6 oz. skinless Wild Caught Alaskan King Salmon fillets, cut from the thicker end; room temperature
- Slivered scallions or lime wedges for garnish, optional
Coconut Rice with Scallions and Cilantro for serving, optional.
Preheat oven to 400.
Place a small saucepan over medium low heat and melt the butter. Add the shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sauté for a few minutes until the shallot begins to soften. Whisk in the brown sugar, increase the heat a little bit, and cook for about five minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved and mixture begins to bubble. Add in the lime juice and the soy sauce, and bring up to a boil. Boil gently until mixture is reduced to about ¾ c. (this usually takes me about 7 minutes or so). Stir the cornstarch and water mixture, then add to the soy / lime mixture. Simmer gently until sauce thickens a bit, about three more minutes. Set sauce to the side and keep warm.
Next, place a medium sized, oven proof sauté pan over medium high heat. Allow the pan to come up to temperature while you pat the salmon fillets dry and season to taste with salt and pepper. You’ll know the pan is hot enough when a drop of water evaporates almost immediately. Add enough neutral cooking oil (canola, etc) to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the salmon fillets, skinned side up. Leave them there for a full three minutes without fiddling or scooting them around. After three minutes, gently turn the salmon with a long spatula. Spoon a bit of the reserved sauce over the fillets, and place them in the oven for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
Remove salmon from the oven. Place scoops of rice on to four dinner plates, top with salmon fillets and an additional drizzle of sauce (I pass it at the table). Garnish with slivered scallions or lime wedges if desired.
Coconut Rice with Scallions & Cilantro
- 1 ½ c. water
- 1 c. coconut milk, very well stirred
- 1 ½ c. basmati rice
- 1 t. salt
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1 T. fresh cilantro, minced
Place a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the water, coconut milk, rice, and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover tightly and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand covered for five minutes. Fluff with a fork, and stir in the scallions and cilantro. Serve with the Salmon dish.
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