Salmon Three Ways
Salmon is one of those dishes where it’s easy to fall into a rut—a few slices of lemon, a glass of simple white wine and maybe some green beans on the side for color. But it’s also a versatile fish that lends itself well to a variety of flavors if you’re willing to deviate from the norm. Let us show you a simple technique for searing salmon fillets, and three new ways to prepare it, from a classic Italian rub to a spice blend that forms the cornerstone of Ethiopian cuisine.
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Look for fresh, wild-caught Pacific salmon for the cleanest taste and firmest texture. It will lend itself to any number of aromatics, like citrus fruits and side dishes like sautéed fennel with the gremolata or Brussels sprouts with the lemon butter. Don’t be afraid to go big with the wine, too, pairing like flavors. Click through to see a selection of salmon-friendly spice blends to use in your preparation, and the wines that pair with them.
- 4 (6-ounce) boneless salmon fillets, skin-on
Warm large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place salmon fillets in skillet, skin side up. Cook until deep golden brown, 4–5 minutes. Flip carefully, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until just opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and serve. Serves 4.
While fresh scallions are a wonderful addition to a great many dishes, a light char adds a depth and complexity of flavor often overlooked in this basic cooking staple. Butter, lemon and salt are the only other ingredients you need to make this tasty, yet simple, condiment.
- 3 scallions, trimmed, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup softened unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest.
Warm large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add scallions. Stirring once or twice, cook until tender and just charred, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Chop scallions until fine and transfer to small bowl. Add butter, lemon juice, kosher salt and lemon zest. Mash together with fork to make compound butter.
There’s no way around it: This dish is rich. But the lemon-tinged acidity and smoky, pungent scallions balance out butter. Liz Martinez, beverage director at Chicago’s Purple Pig, says the Nino Negri 2014 Ca’Brione Bianco (Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio)—a combination of late-ripening Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a touch of Incrocio Manzoni, and Nebbiolo—complements all those elements. “This wine hits all of the notes that a white Burgundy would, but is much more layered,” she says. “The sunny notes of preserved lemon provide the acid, cutting through the plush buttery sauce, and just a touch of tannin in the wine help[s] to keep the decadent union at bay.”
This Italian herb-based condiment is the perfect fresh seasoning for fish, though it can be used on a variety of lighter fare from chicken and veal, to a new way to spice up a salad. This version replaces the traditional lemon zest with orange for a sweeter take on the usual punch of citrus.
- 2 tablespoons chopped orange zest
- ⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 finely chopped clove garlic
In small bowl, combine orange zest, flat-leaf parsley, salt and garlic.
Rub salmon with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook salmon according to instructions. Top with gremolata and serve.
Traditionally served with veal, the Milanese condiment gremolata makes a fragrant, lightly sweet counterpoint to flavorful salmon. Lowe looks to another Northern Italian region, Alto Adige, for a pairing in the old-vine Abbazia di Novacella 2014 Praepositus Kerner ($25, 91 points). “The fattiness of the salmon, along with the zippy acidity from the orange rind, work perfectly with the racy nature innate to Kerner,” she says, adding the wine’s natural aromas of tangerine oil, lime blossom and dried herbs give a big assist.
Berbere is an aromatic spice blend that is a cornerstone of Ethiopian cooking. While authentic berbere makes use of many harder-to-find ingredients indigenous to East Africa, this variation on the rub uses a variety of spices you can find at your local grocery store, or possibly already taking up space in your pantry. It works particularly well on salmon, but can add savory flavor to most meats.
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
In small bowl, combine paprika, salt, coriander, ground ginger, onion powder, fenugreek and nutmeg.
Sprinkle over salmon fillets, or protein of your choosing. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Rub spices and oil together to coat evenly.
“Sometimes, whites that carry some weight are super-useful in tricky pairings, particularly when other wines would get really get knocked around,” says Grubbs. From Sicily, Castellucci Miano’s 2014 Catarratto can hold its own. “This wine is generous without forsaking freshness, and the fact that Catarratto is Sicilian means that it has a natural ability to deal with the strong flavors and spices we associate with warmer, sunnier places.”
- 1Simple Seared Salmon Recipe
- 2Lemon and Charred Scallion Butter
- 3Orange & Fresh Herb Gremolata Salmon Rub
- 4Berbere-Style Spice Rub