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!

Grilled Salmon Chop

Yummy salmon!!

I made this delightful grilled salmon “chop” a couple of days ago. It was really very simple.

First I took a salmon steak (you know, the U-shaped cut with a bone down the center that’s essentially a cross-section of the fish) and with a very sharp chef knife cut that right down the middle, severing it into two “chops”. I seasoned the salmon with Konriko Greek Seasoning and a bunch of cracked peppercorn and then I rubbed it with a generous amount of olive oil.

It was a cool evening so I used a stove-top grill-pan for my grilling. I pre-heated the oven to 350°F and heated the grill-pan over high until it was smoking-hot. I placed the salmon down in the pan and grilled the first side for about five minutes (or until nicely charred) and then flipped it. I grilled the other side for about three minutes and then popped the whole pan into the oven for six minutes.

I removed the pan from the oven and allowed it to sit on the stove-top for a few more minutes, just to cool down a tiny bit.

I served the fish with a scoop of steamed Japanese rice and a veggie saute of fresh corn, petite peas, and diced zucchini. Instead of a lemon wedge I added a slice of ripe tangerine.

It was a perfect dinner! The salmon was lush, buttery, custardy, and oh-so tasty. The skin was crisp and chewy and unctuous. The fish was rich and delish. You could almost feel the Omega-6 fatty acids coursing through your veins. So good!

 

Feeding the Family

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A casual dinner by the Willamette River.

Regina, Bennet, Vivian, and I visited my father and step-mother in Portland, Oregon last week. Dad and Joan have an absolutely gorgeous place by on the east bank of the Willamette River. Their house is set on a bluff overlooking a wide expanse of perfect lawn that leads down to the river bank. My father is a dedicated plant man and he’s got stunning vegetable beds, fruit trees, and grape vines growing vigorously on their property. Kale and tomatoes, lettuces and potatoes, rosemary, lavender, fig, eucalyptus, red chard, bartlett pear, apples, and more. In the eight years they’ve been in Oregon they’ve managed to create and maintain a home that is inviting and charming and that’s a reflection of their progressive thoughts on nature, food, health, light, and community. And on a late summer afternoon there’s nothing better than sipping a glass of my Dad’s homemade white wine and watching rowing sculls flit across the river’s surface, competing occasionally with the wake-making antics of jet-skiers. Birds loop in the blue skies, adopted fuzzball cats get fresh with your legs, a breeze stirs the perfect green beans clinging from their trellis, the occasional passenger jet carves contrails impossibly high above us. It’s all so perfect. So perfect, in fact, that Regina and I got married on these fair premises last summer.

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Always superb salmon can be found in the Northwest.

When we visit I usually try to cook one good meal for my family; we only seem to have time for one as we always have so much on our plate — other friends and family to see, zoos to visit, and breweries to tour. We like to eat outside, watch the sunset, play board games as we nibble dessert, and perhaps sip a little cheap sherry (that would be only my father and me) as we yak about our lives, politics, and what-have-you. This past week talk of politics, the food industry, my much-missed absent sisters, and (naturally) The Olympics dominated. We try to make the most of what Dad and Joan’s garden has to offer, we take a casual pace, and we enjoy each other’s company.

Joan and Jeff (my bro) contributed some excellent Coho salmon — each filet about a pound, very lean, but very fresh. Full of pin bones, even though I yanked out most of them. I patted-dry the fish very well, cut the filets down to individual pieces, and seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, and a big pinch of some random Penzey’s spice mix (maybe like a poultry seasoning) that Joan had in her cooking arsenal. I cooked the filets by first searing the fish skin-side down in a very hot skillet with some olive oil. After the skin was crisped I then flipped the pieces and cooked the other side about a minute. I then transferred the par-cooked pieces to a baking dish. The baking dish I popped into the oven and finished the fish at 375º F for about five minutes.

The fish was just cooked through, moist and delicious.

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A simple salad — romaine, tomato, radish, etc.

Our salad was definitely a family affair. Jeff contributed a perfect large Persian cucumber from his yard-garden, Joan added a bulb of fennel and a head of fresh romaine from her lettuce bed, and just that morning I’d gotten a few excellent tomatoes, celery, and radishes from the small but very inviting Milwaukie Farmer’s Market. At the market I also picked up some great local and organic goat-milk feta cheese. I whipped up a simple cider vinaigrette with some garlic, shallot, and a bit of minced fennel frond (and S&P, of course).

I (mostly) peeled, seeded, and chopped the cuke. I shaved the fennel and soaked it briefly in cold water to firm it up. I cut, soaked, and spun-dry the romaine. Cut the tomatoes, finely cut some celery, shaved some radishes, crumbled the sublime and creamy feta. I tossed everything together with some of the dressing. Basically a Greek-style salad with no olives or peppers, it was light and refreshing and complemented the fish perfectly.

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Potatoes fresh out of the ground are the best!

Dad dug up some potatoes from a mixed patch that yielded some good glossy reds, some Peruvian purples, and a few starchy Russet-style baker-types. After hosing them down, drying them off, and cutting the spuds down to similar sizes (think 3/4-inch thick cubes, about) I tossed them (in a big bowl) in melted butter and olive oil. Over the top I sprinkled generous amounts of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I also threw in some minced herbs from Joan’s herb pots — fresh rosemary, a bit of fresh lavender, lemon thyme, marjoram, and parsley. A couple large cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped, completed the potato seasoning. I spread the taters in a roasting pan and cooked them at 400ºF for about 35 minutes, until the potatoes were browned and crisp on the edges but soft in the middle. I turned and tossed and moved the potatoes around a couple of times during the roasting to ensure even cooking.

Everyone loved the potatoes, and it’s a good thing I made a whole lot as we ended up eating them the next day as well! The dish wasn’t particularly hard to make or inventive. It’s  all about fresh potatoes. Fresh potatoes are heads above your typical grocery store spuds. They are moister, richer, earthier, and butterier. Just excellent. And according to Dad, pretty much toil-free as a home crop.

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Very simple sauteed green beans.

Earlier that day Joan had picked some green beans. I trimmed these and blanched them in boiling salted water for about four minutes until tender. I shocked them in a ice bath to stop the cooking and then then drained them very well. I cut the beans into two-to-three-inch lengths. About five minutes before dinner time I heat up a big sauté pan and lightly browned (over medium-high heat) some chopped onion and garlic in a combination of butter and olive oil. I threw in the beans and cooked them for another minute. I added a splash of white wine (New Zealand Sauv Blanc), stirred the beans, and served them.

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Excellent lemon-garlic fettucine with butter, parmesan, lemon zest, and fresh breadcrumbs.

At the Milwaukie Farmer’s Market I also picked up a pound of very good organic linguine infused with lemon and garlic. First step in making this dish was toasting some homemade fresh breadcrumbs. I cut the crust off of a chunk of stale baguette and then cut the interior of the bread into smaller pieces, about a half-inch in size. I put the bread into a food processor and pulsed it down into crumbs. I then sautéed the crumbs in butter and olive oil until nice-and-crunchy; I pulled the crumbs from the pan and held them until later.

I set up a pot of salted water to cook the pasta. I set up another big sauté pan and melted a generous plug of butter in a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Into the oils I added two cloves of coarsely garlic & once minced shallot. I cooked the garlic and shallot about a minute until softened and then turned off the gas. When the water boiled I cooked the noodles to al dente.

I drained the noodles but I retained a half-cup of the pasta-cooking liquid in a measuring cup. I put the hot drained linguine into the butter-olive oil mixture and tossed it well. I turned the heat up to high and added the cup of pasta-water. I threw in a handful of chopped red chard and about 5 basil leaves, which I tore up by hand. Over the noodles I added two tablespoons of lemon zest and the juice of one lemon. Using a pair of tongs I mixed the noodles to get everything together and then tested for seasoning. I added a bit of salt, a whole bunch of black pepper, and 1 cup of grated parmesan. I killed the heat, stirred the cheese in, and transferred the pasta to a big serving bowl. Finally, as a garnish, I topped the linguine with a big handful of toasted breadcrumbs. Voila! Garlic & lemon linguine with butter, chard, basil, parmesan & crisp breadcrumbs.

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Sitting down to a fine meal with fine people (clockwise from left): Jeff, Bennet, Regina, me, Vivian, Joan. (Missing from this photo: Dad, who took the pic, and my sister-in-law Kate, who had to work.)

Jeff brought some homemade beer (pretty yummy!) and we also drank lemonade and one of my personal faves — Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc (pretty decent and relatively cheap NZ white). For dessert we had this delicious crostata made from organic nectarines and a partially whole-wheat crust, which came out a tiny bit tough. I made a basic pate brisée but I think I screwed up the proportions of fat-to-flour. C’est la vie. Even the best of us screw up from time to time. Best of all, we topped off the crostata with vanilla ice cream from Graeter’s out of Cincinnati. Good, ole-fashioned iced cream.

Seriously, is there anything better than good food and family? Well, the view helped too. And the wine.

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Fresh nectarine crostata. Yummy!

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.

 

Pan-Roasted Salmon Supper

Salmon in the pan!

Man, I love salmon! Salmon is flavorful and rich and super-versatile. You really can cook it hundreds of different ways, and it has the added benefit of containing a wealth of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which, unless you’ve been hiding in a cave in Tora Bora, you know are extremely good for you. Whenever I cook fish, which is frequently, I have to make an assessment based on nutritional value, cost, environmental impact, and, of course, taste and quality. So it’s kind of a pain in the ass to balance all this information just to make something tasty and healthy for me and my family. But in this day and age of uncertain food sources and diminishing fish stocks we have to take all these facts into account and make our own educated decisions.

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