Sunday, June 5, 2011

Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Soy-Mustard Dressing

This recipe is from the May 2009 issue of Food and Wine. In the magazine, the dish was made with grouper, and that white fish fillet was a nice, bright back drop for the very thinly sliced vegetables that were placed on top of it. The look of the dish and the fresh, light nature of the salad had stuck in my head for two years. I went off to the fish counter planning to bring home a thick, white fillet of something, but then instead, I saw the first wild salmon of the season. The very first salmon of the season is always so good, and it was shiny and dark pink and couldn’t be refused. So, my version has a pink back drop for the salad, but the flavor was everything I’d hoped it would be. Speaking of salmon, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. I learned a trick for quick brining salmon from Ad Hoc at Home. In a cold solution of one part salt to ten parts water, salmon fillets are left to soak for about ten minutes. This brief brine seasons the fish and prevents the soluble protein from coagulating into white gunk when it’s cooked. Given the expense of first of the season wild salmon, I don’t mind taking this extra step to ensure the cooked result will be as good as it can be.

While the fish sat in the cold brine, the sauce was made in the blender. It was a puree of soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, sake, whole-grain mustard, some garlic, and grapeseed oil. Half of the cucumbers were peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise on a benriner, and those became a folded base for the dish. The other half of the cucumbers were julienned along with carrot, daikon, and a red chile. Sliced garlic and shallot were fried until browned, removed from the oil, and then that oil was used to cook the fish. To serve, some soy-mustard dressing was spooned onto the plate, the long pieces of cucumber were folded into a stack, the salmon sat on them, and the julienned vegetables were the crown on top with a garnish of fried shallot, garlic, and black and white sesame seeds.

I have to go on a bit more about that brining technique because it really does perfectly season the fish, and the fish does look much better when there’s no white protein oozing from the fillet. The fresh, crunchy vegetables were just the right accompaniment, and the soy-mustard dressing added lively flavor. I know I would like this just as well with a white fish fillet, and the color combination on the plate would be striking, but this was a fabulous use of this season’s first salmon.



26 comments:

  1. Lisa - thank you so much for that tip on the quick brine! I really hate that white stuff that comes out of salmon when it's cooked.

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  2. Looks and sounds amazing! Thanks for the cold brine tip!

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  3. Refined, beautifully presented and so appetizing!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. I am definitely trying the brining method, never thought of using it in salmon filets

    great idea!

    by the way, I love when you bring the recipes from Food and Wine from a few years ago - unfortunately I haven't subscribed to it until last year - such a great magazine!

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  5. I love the wild salmon that is available in the spring......will have to try the brining method if you say it makes a difference. Love this dish....light and elegant.

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  6. I love brining and had not thought about doing it to fish for this reason. Your salad looks and sounds amazing. What a treat. I bet the first salmon of the season made it extra special.

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  7. very nice dish, light and summery...
    like the idea of marinating salmon in a salt water, I imagine it brings out the flavor a lot.

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  8. Lisa, you're a genius. Thanks so much for the cold brine tip.
    The salmon looks amazingly good.

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  9. Nice little brine tip there Lisa, good one & the cucumber looks amazing presented this way, love it.

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  10. This is so company ready and a tribute to salmon.

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  11. A one-dish salmon meal is a regular for me. Easy and nutritious, esp with paired with vegetables.

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  12. Beautifully done... maybe after the cucumber e coli scare is over with here in the UK LOL :D
    *kisses* HH

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  13. Look absolutely nice!! gloria

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  14. That is an absolutely gorgeous shot! We don't usually do salmon as we grew up on Gulf water fish but that filet looks so beautiful, I'm almost convinced to run out and get some.

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  15. Lovly picture. just mouthwatering.

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  16. I've heard so much about the brining technique for meat but I've yet to try it for fish although it totally makes sense. This looks like a lovely dish Lisa! :)

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  17. WOW This looks super delish! Thanks for the brine tip. Will have to try next time.

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  18. Salmon is going to be the next fish I cook with. I've been seeing so many delicious recipes for it lately.

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  19. Wow, an amazing dish, mouthwatering and beautiful presentation.

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  20. Grouper is fine...but salmon is WAY better! I love the sound of this dish! Isn't it funny how certain recipes just stick in your head and won't get out?

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  21. Lisa, next time cooking salmon I will definitely try your cold brine...your salmon looks delicious with all the sides. So nicely presented...yummie!
    Hope you are having a great week :-)

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  22. This is such a lovely dish and the flavors, I'm sure, were just as spectacular. Does the brine work only with salmon or could I try another firm-fleshed fish? Thanks for sharing! 8-)

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  23. this is so elegant!! and so impressive! thank you for sharing this with us and have a great day.

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  24. Tracey: You can brine any fish, but you would leave the fish in the brine for less time for a thinner fillet. A one inch thick fillet is brined for 10 minutes. And, for anything thinner, it should only sit in the brine for five minutes or so.

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  25. I love the way you dress up your dishes and how you bring such amazing flavors to such simple food. Beautiful dish!

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  26. That Ad Hoc book is such a gem for tips like this. I remember when I made the scallops recipe from that book. I had never thought to brine scallops before like it directs. But wow -- what a difference that makes. The scallops end up with so much flavor and with such a great plump texture.

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