05/31/11 • SALMON WITH SNAP
From the Jan./Feb., 2011 Cook’s Illustrated (click here to view the recipe)
Salmon tends to get a bad rap. Maybe because of its mild flavor, or its frequent appearance at baby shower luncheons, or the fact that for years it’s been the featured seafood option at so many “fancy” restaurants, it’s a fish that often leads foodies to turn up their noses — as if it were the out-of-towners’ choice for a big city meal. Still, I’ve always been a fan of its rich, flaky meat, its silken texture, even its pretty, spring-like complexion. What’s more, all of these qualities make it the perfect vehicle for a range of enticing sauces. I mean, any opportunity to consume excessive amounts of Hollandaise sauce works for me!
So when I opened the January/February issue of Cook’s Illustrated and saw their recipe for glazed salmon I was immediately intrigued. For starters, they’ve come up with a seemingly fool proof method of ensuring that the finished filet stays moist: slow cooking at low heat, versus the traditional blast-it-under-the-broiler-method. For anyone who’s ever struggled with achieving the ideal balance of cooked to moist in something as delicate as a salmon filet, these are welcome insights — as simple as they are ingenious.
But the thing that really caught my eye was their tip for a pomegranate-balsamic glaze (three other glazes are also offered, including a soy-mustard that I found over-powering, as well as Asian barbecue, and orange-miso varieties). I’m typically drawn to anything in which vinegar plays a starring role, and I was intrigued by the possibility of combining the bite of vinegar with the silky richness of the salmon. What’s more, the whole enterprise looked to require only twenty minutes or so in the kitchen, which is just about all I can manage on a typical weeknight.
I wasn’t disappointed. Thanks to a sprinkling of brown sugar and cornstarch atop the fish (the latter to better hold the glaze — another Cook’s Illustrated innovation), followed by a quick sear in the frying pan before the fish even enters the oven, the slow cooking method still manages to deliver the golden brown exterior associated with the high heat cooking approach. And, just as I imagined, the sharpness of the vinegar/pomegranate glaze proved the perfect foil to the richness of the fish. Paired with some brown rice and steamed asparagus (several generous blasts of fresh lemon juice here), and I had the makings for the perfect weeknight meal.
A quick note on the glazes: of the two I sampled, both thickened up quite quickly and produced more sauce than needed for four filets (use it all and you risk drowning out any of that delicate salmon flavor this cooking method has been so careful to preserve). So be sure to monitor the consistency of the sauce as you simmer, and use restraint when applying it to the fish.
Ingredients for the fish:
—1 tsp light brown sugar
—½ tsp kosher salt
—¼ tsp cornstarch
—4 center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 oz each (See note, below)
—Ground black pepper
—1 tsp vegetable oil
Note: Use salmon fillets of similar thickness so they cook at the same rate.
Ingredients for the glaze:
—3 tbs light brown sugar
—3 tbs pomegranate juice
—2 tbs balsamic vinegar
—1 tbs whole grain mustard
—1 tsp cornstarch
—1 pinch cayenne pepper
—Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300˚.
—Whisk glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
—Combine brown sugar, salt, and cornstarch in small bowl. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over top of flesh side of salmon, rubbing to distribute.
—Heat oil in 12-inch oven safe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place salmon, flesh side down, in skillet and cook until well browned, about 1 minute. Using tongs, carefully flip salmon and cook on skin side for 1 minute.
—Remove skillet from heat and spoon glaze evenly over salmon fillets. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until center of thickest part of fillets registers 125˚ on instant-read thermometer and is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer fillets to platter or individual plates and serve.