Friday, February 26, 2010

Crusty Skillet-Baked Salmon with Brown Sugar Mustard Sauce

If you've been following my kitchen chronicles for any length of time you'll know we eat a lot of Sockeye Salmon. I bake or grill it, usually with a tangy sauce that's based on honey and balsamic vinegar and it's pure goodness, but my kids are spoiled on good food so they become bored with the same dish no matter how amazing it is. Enter my son's decision to hate salmon- which translates into his boredom with the Sassy Method of Salmon preparation- and my subsequent scramble to get some fish back into the boy's diet. What follows is the Cliff's Notes version of that Quest:

A few months ago we had in-laws come through for a visit, and I had one of those rare times when I really didn't want to cook for 7 people. So we decided to try The Porter House in Dahlonega which served an impressive array of terrestrial and marine-type dishes. I ordered the salmon with a maple-sugar crust and was very impressed, so much so that I decided to design my own crusty salmon recipe. It was proclaimed the best salmon sauce I'd ever made, so of course I'm sharing it with you next. Why the chalkboard ingredients list, you ask? In this case, I was making up the recipe as I went along and I usually use that blackboard to keep track of ingredients in the event things turn out well (or not). There was a lot of "no, that's not quite it" that went into the construction of the sauce, and I was amazed a by the quantity of horseradish I had to add to give it enough zip to satisfy the family. I used our favorite Sockeye Salmon, but you can use any salmon from your local market and it will be fine.If you can't read my handwriting, I'll post the ingredients below:
Mister C's Crusty Skillet-Baked Salmon with Brown Sugar Mustard Sauce (serves four)
Salmon Fillet, 1.5 - 2 lbs
1.75 cups of Brown Sugar
.25 cup Inglehoffer Wasabi (For a creamier zip)
6 Tbsp Spicy Brown or Coarse Ground Mustard
2 Tbsp Ground Horseradish (for zippier zip)
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Grated Ginger or Ginger Paste
1 Orange, Juiced (add some zest from the peel if you wish)
1-2 oz Toasted Pine Nuts, Crushed or Chopped - set aside and do not add to the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cut the salmon in to equal-sized slabs, depending on the number of diners. If you've more folks coming, either get more fish or serve a bigger salad- the sauce will accommodate up to six servings. Mix the ingredients together except the pine nuts and set aside for a few minutes to get acquainted.  Preheat a pan or skillet on medium-high and add just enough oil or butter to quickly brown the fish, skin-side up. Don't overdo this step, the objective is to give it a quick sear but not to cook the fish. Then flip the fillets over (skin-side down) in the same skillet, give the sauce a final stir to remix and pour it over the fish. It'll sizzle and start to carmelize in the skillet immediately, releasing just enough aroma to titillate your dinner partners, then pop it in the oven on the center rack for 15 minutes. Fix yourself a cocktail or glass of wine, toss your salad and prepare your sides because your entree is almost done. When the fish begins to "weep" - when the milky juices start to seep from the fish- turn the oven to broil, pull out the skillet and sprinkle the pine nuts over the fish. Return the skillet to the oven, still on the center rack, and broil for 3-5 minutes to encourage the sauce to carmelize and become crusty- this takes a bit of mojo so stay on it and you'll be fine. Serve it quickly with brown bread and plenty of sauce on the side, and it's substantial enough to add red wine or a hearty Guinness as your beverage.
Enjoy and tell them you got this recipe from Cookin' With Mister C-