Misoyaki Wild Salmon

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

Me so hungry for miso salmon.

This is a version of that ubiquitous sushi joint staple, misoyaki black cod, popularized with a vengeance at Matsuhisa restaurant here in LA (and at over thirty other affiliated restaurants internationally) by famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s Nobu’s signature dish, and the impact of his influence is felt in nearly every sushi bar in American, where some version of miso-marinated broiled fish is on virtually every menu. And for good reason as it’s damn good — sweet, salty, tender, and rich. It can feel fancy or it can be served very simply, almost rustically. It makes a great lunchtime or dinnertime main course, or it can go alongside other Asian dishes for a larger spread.

I love to make it with black cod, of course, or butterfish or ling cod or Chilean seabass or pretty much any other fish that is either delicate or has a decent fat content. I was initially going to make this with black cod, but I found some beautiful and very fresh wild salmon and decided to go with that instead.

I deviate from Nobu’s original recipe by adding a bit more flavoring to the marinade; if you know me you know that I can’t resist tinkering with classics in the hopes of finding greater complexity and depth of flavor — hence the addition of ginger and garlic and salt and pepper. I recommend marinating the fish for at least six hours, so make the marinade in the morning and drop the fish in. By dinnertime you’ll be good to go. If you really want to plan ahead you could marinate the salmon overnight, although I wouldn’t go for two days as the sodium in the marinade could dry out the fish and make the miso flavor too assertive.

Serve this with steamed white rice and maybe some stir-fried bok choy or other Asian greens. I also recommend having on the side a little soy sauce and something spicy like sambal oelek or sriracha.

What you need:

  • 1 pound wild salmon filet, skinned with pin-bones removed
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup shiro miso paste (very pale yellow “white” miso)
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2/3 cups of chopped scallions (as a garnish)

What you gotta do:

First cut the salmon filets into four evenly-sized pieces. Place the filets in a flat plastic container with a lid or a glass pan that you can cover with plastic wrap; use anything except a metal container that could be potentially reactive (i.e. aluminum). Also, choose your container wisely; you want the fish to be snug in whatever container you choose so that the fish is nestled in and covered fully by the marinade. Refrigerate fish while you make the marinade.

In a small pot mix the mirin, sake, and water. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling and add the sugar, whisking until it dissolves. Turn off the heat and whisk in the miso, ginger, garlic, salt, and white pepper. Transfer the marinade to a bowl and allow it come to room temperature. Pour marinade over the fish and turn pieces to fully coat with the miso. Cover and refrigerate.

Now wait patiently a few hours. To cook turn on your broiler and set the oven rack about six inches away from the heating element, be it flame or electric coil. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on a sheet pain that been very slightly oiled. Any excess marinade you can pour into a small pot and bring quickly to a boil. Turn off heat. Now you can use the marinade to baste the fish.

Put pan with salmon into the oven and broil for about three minutes. Remove fish from oven and, using a pastry brush, baste fish with more marinade. Return the fish to the oven and broil for another two or three minutes, approximately. You want the edges slightly charred, so when that occurs remove the salmon and prod it to check for doneness. I like it cooked through but very tender and a bit rare. Touch it with your finger — the flesh should have some softness to it. If you suspect it’s not cooked enough to your taste, turn the oven off and return the fish to oven. Allow it to cook with the oven’s residual heat until it’s firmer and more to your liking.

Transfer fish to a platter and serve dinner!

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Super-succulent salmon served for supper. Say that five times fast!

Santa Barbara Prawn Scampi

Santa Barbara prawns are sweet and oh-so tender.

Despite their name Santa Barbara spot prawns (Pandalus platyceros) are not really prawns, per se. They are a type of shrimp. I generally understand the word prawn to mean a crustacean that’s larger than the average shrimp, with a slightly different shell structure and a more delicate flesh; I tend to think of spiny langostinos from the Mediterranean when I hear the word prawn. However, many people use the words prawn and shrimp interchangeably to mean any of these edible shrimp-like critters. I suppose peculiarities in name usage come from locality or availability. A jumbo shrimp cocktail, for instance, is referred to as a prawn cocktail in San Francisco, which is utterly indistinguishable from the chilled shrimp appetizer you’ll find from New York to San Diego. Why the regional variations in definition? I dunno, do your own deeper research if you like.

Regardless of what you call them, Santa Barbara spot prawns (or just prawns, no spot) are incredibly sweet and tender. They are usually the freshest shrimp you’ll find on the West Coast; most shrimp have their heads removed and are flash-frozen close to the harvesting site (or at the farm, for farmed shrimp) as an enzyme in the head will cause rapid decay after they die. But SB prawns are sold live, which means they are super-fresh. It also means that to cook them you have to kill them, so if that gives you pause you may wish to cook something less visibly twitchy.

For this recipe I sautéed a few of these über-fresh shrimp in a pan with some peeled and seeded tomatoes, some garlic, a handful of chopped herbs, and a touch of white wine. I ate it over some fragrant basmati rice and it was perfect. It’s a delicious preparation, but I also love them very simply grilled, head-on, split in half. Be sure to also check out this earlier post about SB Prawns from about eighteen months ago. Sorry if the pics aren’t my finest.

https://spencerhgray.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/santa-barbara-prawns/

Truly fresh seafood glistens.

When you grill prawns it’s best to leave the head on and cut right down the length of the entire body with a sharp knife, while they’re still alive. I mean, that’s damn fresh! But if the idea of the legs and feelers frantically waving all over the place while you’re cutting them in half freaks you out (and it’s pretty freaky, I’ll admit), you can put them in the freezer for fifteen minutes, which will kill them in a slightly gentler fashion. You’ll get less shrimp flailing when you break them down for cooking, whether you split them or clean them for sauté.

Since I wasn’t using the heads for this preparation I twisted them off and discarded them. I peeled off the tail shell mostly, leaving just the ends on. I deveined the prawns and kept them chilled until I was ready to cook ’em up.

This recipe calls for tomato concasse, which is diced peeled and seeded tomatoes. I used a lovely mixture of yellow and red heirlooms, which resulted in a fantastic orangey hue for the dish. To prepare tomatoes like this incise with a sharp knife an “X” on the bottom of each tomato (the top being the stem-end, btw) and dropping the tomatoes whole into boiling salted water for about ten seconds. Using a slotted spoon remove the tomatoes and place into a ice bath. The skin should curl back at the “X” and be easy to peel off. After you peel the tomato you can trim out the woody stem area, cut the tomatoes into segments, and gently scrape out the seeds. Chop into a medium dice for this recipe.

This scampi-style dish takes almost no time to cook; just be sure to have everything ready to go when you sauté the prawns. And take care not to overcook the shrimp! Err on the side of undercooked, if you’re at all unclear. Always remember that things continue to cook off the heat, in the pan, in the sauce, on the plate. So especially for more delicate items like mild fish or these prawns remember to stop right before you think it’s totally cooked through.

These little prawns have almost a “lobstery” flavor.

SB Prawn Scampi

This recipe is just for one person, so simply multiply the amounts for however many people you plan to feed.

You will need:

  • nine medium Santa Barbara spot prawns — headed, peeled, and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon room temperature butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato concasse, medium-to-large dice
  • 1 teaspoon minced basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon room temperature butter (yep, more butter!)

Now do this:

Heat a saute pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add olive oil and 1 teaspoon of butter. Add prawns and season with some salt and pepper (use your own judgement). Cook prawns about 1 minute on the first side and flip them over. Add the garlic and the white wine. When the wine cooks down and no longer smells like booze add the diced tomatoes and herbs. Stir to coat the crustaceans and cook for about one minute, or until the shrimp are cooked through and the tomatoes are warm. Add another tablespoon of butter and toss the pan to combine everything. Remove from the pan and eat over rice or with toasty, crusty bread.

The season is just about over. You have maybe two more weeks to get your hands on SB prawns. So go for it!

Smoked Salmon Hash

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This morning I made a lovely and simple breakfast hash with some excellent local smoked salmon.

My father has a small potato patch and he dug up a few very fresh, waxy, red-skinned potatoes. In a small pot I covered the potatoes with cold water and boiled them until fork-tender. I drained the taters and when they were cool enough to handle I peeled them, mostly. I left on about 20% of the skin for a little texture. Next I cubed them roughly and set them aside.

I cut up half of a small onion into a large dice. I also chopped up one celery stalk, a small piece of fennel bulb, and one very large garlic clove. I then minced a little rosemary, some lemon thyme, some parsley, and a tiny fistful of celery leaf. I broke up a big handful of smoked salmon into flakey chunks; this was hot-smoked “kippered” salmon, as opposed to lox or nova, although you could use pretty much any type of salmon you wanted. Or you could use smoked trout or cooked lobster meat or big chunks of crispy bacon if you wanted to.

Into a hot skillet I swirled about three tablespoons of olive oil and added a tablespoon of butter. I threw in the onions, celery, and fennel. I added a big pinch of kosher salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. I sauteed all that over medium high heat until just barely browned and then added the potatoes. I stirred the ingredients together until well-combined and let the potatoes brown on one side until crispy and golden. I stirred in the salmon and the herbs and cooked for about five minutes over high. I checked for seasoning, added a bit more salt, and then killed the heat.

It was ready to eat. And it was yummy! Fried up a couple of farm-fresh eggs and had a fantastic brekkie.

Summer Ceviche (Omnivorous Video Number Two!)

Light and refreshing summer ceviche!

Recipe For Summer Ceviche

You will need:

  • 1/2 pound halibut, cut into a large dice
  • lime juice to cover fish, from one large lime
  • 1/3 pound cooked fresh Dungeness crab meat (or any other crab meat)
  • 1/3 pound poached shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup chopped avocado
  • 1 roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced (seeded if you don’t want it too hot)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 generous tablespoon (plus more if you want) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a lime
  • tortilla chips & cerveza

Now do this:

I use halibut for this recipe because it’s widely available and neutral in flavor, but you can use pretty much any fish you want — red snapper, grouper, sea bass, even salmon if you like. I prefer white-fleshed fish with a low oil content for ceviche; I wouldn’t use tuna or other fatty fish as the flavor can be quite assertive (and not in a good way).

Put the diced halibut in a non-reactive bowl (not aluminum, basically) and cover with lime juice. Pop it in the fridge for 3 hours. Take it out and mix with all other ingredients, except chips and beer, duh!

Allow the ceviche to rest, refrigerated, for one hour. Or eat it immediately; it’s up to you!

Thanks for watching and thanks for reading.

Delish Fish: Grilled Salmon Steaks

Salmon is sexy!

I grilled these beautiful salmon steaks the other day, and they came out marvelous!

First I brought the salmon to room temperature (on a plate covered with plastic) and then I patted them dry. Next I seasoned them generously with kosher salt, black pepper, some Greek seasoning (Konriko brand), and a few pinches of herbs de Provence, that classic French dried herb mixture of thyme, rosemary, savory, fennel, lavender, and basil. I then oiled the salmon very well with some good extra virgin olive oil.

I heated my grill on high for twenty minutes until it was so frickin’ hot it could almost burst into flames spontaneously. I oiled the grill grates with an old kitchen rag with a little vegetable oil poured on it (use some tongs for this in case of oil flare-ups).

I grilled the salmon on one side for about 6 minutes until it was nicely charred. I carefully flipped it and grilled the other side for about the same amount of time. Then I killed the heat and covered the grill. The salmon finished cooking for another five minutes in the closed grill and then I removed it. I let it rest another five or ten minutes before we ate it.

It was fantastic — it had a wonderful charred crust in some spots, the inside was custardy and cooked about medium, and the skin was fatty and crisp. No garnish was necessary except for a few wedges of fresh lemon. The fish was absolutely delish!

Gotta get good grill marks!

Some tips for stick-free fish grilling:

  • Make sure the fish hasn’t any water on its surface. Oil and seasonings are fine, but moisture = stickage.
  • Make sure your grill-grates are clean.
  • Make sure your grill is hot.
  • Make sure your grill-grates are well-oiled.
  • When you put it on the grill, leave it alone! Don’t try to move it until good grill-marks develop. Using a metal spatula you can try to lift up a corner to test it. If it comes away with minimal tugging, it’s probably okay to move and flip.
  • The rest is just practice. But summer is here and it’s time to get your grill on! So practice.

 

Today’s Sandwich: Make Mine a Tuna Melt!

I don’t often eat tuna melts, but occasionally I JUST LOVE ‘EM!

Mostly just a pic more than a recipe, this is a fantastic tuna melt I made a couple of days ago.

I made the tuna salad from albacore with a little fresh dill, a wee bit of minced tarragon, some chopped chives, a squeeze of lemon, some good ole fashioned yellow mustard, and mayo of course. Salt and pepper too, natch. The cheese was colby and the bread a very tasty, sturdy country white. I threw on a few thin slices of shaved sweet Maui onion as well.

I then brushed the bread with softened butter and cooked the sandwich in a seasoned skillet until the bread was golden brown and crisp and the cheese had melted.

The salad behind is iceberg, arugula, endive, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries, and a simple vinaigrette.

It was delicious — the interior warm and soft, the bread flavorful, crunchy but still yielding. Altogether a great tuna sando!