Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of joining Culinary Institute of America trained personal chef Dante Giannini while he prepared one of his famous "farm to fork" seasonal meals. With a resume that includes kitchen time at Aquagrille and Oceana, its no wonder that as a private chef, Dante specializes in fish. For our meal, he chose salmon for the main course. "Salmon is so underrated," he confided me as he knived portions of the fleshy, red fillet. "People now equate salmon with unoriginality. But there's really nothing better than a salmon done right."

I completely agreed. Sometimes I almost feel a guilt complex for going with salmon at the fish counter—with so many lesser known seafoods, must I choose the safe option, again? Which is inevitably followed by a second hurdle: how to distinguish which varieties are sustainable. So, below I have provided a mini-guide courtesy of Seafood Watch to help you pick your next salmon cut, mindfully ecological and guilt-free. Then, you can make this wonderful Bourbon Glazed Salmon.

In general, wild salmon from Alaska is your best bet. With strict monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery, most wild-caught Alaskan salmon is certified sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Market names include chinook, coho, chum, keta, king, pink, red, silver, & sockeye salmon. Other “best choice” selections are Washington sockeye salmon and farmed U.S. coho salmon. Good alternatives include wild-caught salmon from British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington. To avoid: salmon farmed in open net pens. Hailing from Chile, Scotland, and Norway, this farming method allows waste from the fish to pass freely into the surrounding habitat, polluting the wild environment and potentially spreading diseases and parasites.

Once you've selected your sustainable salmon, get excited! Because this recipe rocks. It combines the classic ingredients of an Asian teriyaki (soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds) with the oaky, caramel goodness of one of my favorite spirits, bourbon. The sauce is super light—notice there is no oil at all—but glazes expertly atop the salmon steak, leaving a delicate, golden coat of flavor permeating the tender, pink fish.

Obviously, the more the fish marinates the more saturated it becomes with the bourbon glaze, so the earlier you can start this step the better. However, the flavors are bold enough that even a cursory soak will highlight the robust flavors: spicy ginger, biting bourbon, tangy lime. With summer's official kick-off coming up this Memorial Day weekend, feel free to try this guy on the grill too.

Bourbon Glazed Salmon
Serves 4

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
Cooking spray
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish and marinade to the pan; cook for 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. (Alternatively, bake in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes until the same flaky consistency is reached.)

3.  Remove fillets from pan (do not discard marinade), and place each one on its own plate. Drizzle each serving with 2 teaspoons of sauce from the pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon scallions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds.

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