“I’m in the mood for fish, but I don’t want anything that tastes fishy” - Anonymous
Huh? The answer to this quote is…. ORDER CHICKEN!
One way to accommodate a request like this is to use SALMON and to enhance and meld it with hearty spices. Salmon has become one of America’s popular fish; only second to tuna. Salmon is a rich full flavored fish that is not too fishy, depending on the species (see below). Salmon is a great fish to cook. Since it is high in fish oil’s and it’s dense texture makes it very forgiving when cooking on the grill or in the pan.
There are eight species of SALMON in North America, five in the Pacific waters alone. Some popular species are Atlantic, King, Coho and Sockeye. Each species have different levels of flavor and texture. The best type of Salmon is not always in season so farmed raised salmon is the most common variety in America. Farm-raised or wild-caught have different flavor, texture and even color. An an example of color would be a comparsion between farm-raised Atlantic or Chilean to wild-caught Sockeye. The wild-caught Sockeye flesh is a darker pink or red. The Chilean salmon is often color enhanced to be more appealing. My favorite salmon species is the farm raised KING and the wild-caught SOCKEYE.
The March/April 2008 Cook’s Illustrated best describes farm-raised KING and wild-caught SOCKEYE SALMON as the following,“ The farm-raised KING SALMON has a “custardy” texture and a “rich” yet “mild” flavor that “tasted of the sea”. Unfortunately this farm species is not as widely available as its Atlantic counterpart and may require a trip to a specialty or online store. When found this SALMON is a exquisite. The wild-caught SOCKEYE SALMON is distinguished by it’s “clean”, “briny” notes and deep reddish color – the darkest of all the species. Some may find the big flavor to assertive. The texture is “smooth” and “firm” that results in a “good bite”. Wild-caught Salmon is generally stronger in flavor and does cost more. It is usually available fresh from late spring through the end of summer.” I tend to purchase my fish from the fishmongers on Staten Island at Met Supermarkets, either location, (for fresh fish) or COSTCO (for frozen wild caught salmon only, not the vacuum packed fresh Chilean color enhanced salmon, it tends to be mushy when cooked).
“In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.” – Jean Anthelme & Brillat Savarin, French Epicure & Gastronome
And now for an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight that my family and friends enjoy…….SPICE-RUBBED SALMON
This is a moderately easy recipe that makes you look like a professional chef. Just pay attention when toasting the spice seeds and turning the salmon over in the fry pan. This dish is great for small dinner parties or intimate dinners (do this right and you will reel her in!)
Difficulty: Advanced Beginner
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 salmon fillets, ea. 6 – 8 oz., with skin, pin bones removed
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Bottle of a good Pinot Noir
Heat a small fry pan over medium-high heat. Put coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in pan and toast, stirring constantly, until golden brown and fragrant. About 2 to 3 minutes. Be carefully. The seeds can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly. It happened to me many times when I wasn’t paying attention. Remove seeds and place in a small bowl to cool for a minute or two. Grind spices in a mortar & pestle or a clean coffee grinder. Transfer ground seeds to the small bowl and stir in the brown sugar and salt.
Place the salmon, skin side down, on a plate and rub the top of each fillet with the spice mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Open the bottle of Pinot Noir and pour a glass for yourself and friends.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until almost smoking. Place the salmon, SKIN SIDE UP, in the pan and sear for about 2 minutes. VERY CAREFULLY turn the salmon over (keep the skin intact with the flesh) and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until the fish is golden brown underneath and the flesh is opaque throughout, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the salmon to plates and serve immediately.
That’s it your done. Good job and you didn’t flounder! Now go enjoy the fruit of your labors with your family and friends. Don’t forget that bottle of Pinot Noir you opened!