Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Copper River Sockeye Salmon with an Orange-Saffron Sauce

There are only a handful of food blogs that I regularly follow, and, one of them is Hunter, Angler, Gardener and Cook or "HAGC."  The mind behind HAGC is Hank Shaw, who spends his time doing what the name of his blog suggests.  Hank has posted several recipes that have been on my to do list for quite some time.  One of those recipes is Trout with Orange-Saffron Sauce. 

I was particularly interested in the orange-saffron sauce, which I thought was a very good sauce to pair with trout.  Hank used the orange (and white wine) to provide some acidity to balance with the fat in the trout.  The orange also added a little sweetness, which adds complexity to the sauce.  That complexity is further developed by the use of saffron that, according to Hank, adds an "ever-so-slightly bitter flavor" to the sauce.  After reading his blog, I was determined to make this dish for my beautiful wife, Clare, and myself. 

I had to make a couple of substitutions and adjustments.  First, I did not have access to any trout fillets that were thick enough to do this recipe any justice.  I decided to substitute some Copper River Sockeye Salmon fillets. The salmon worked very well because it shares some of the same characteristics as the trout, particularly that little bit of fattiness and relatively mild taste.  Second, I had to substitute the greens.  Hank used amaranth, but I did not have any of that leafy vegetable available to me.  I substituted some fresh spinach.  Although I am not a big fan of spinach, I really liked it in this dish. 

Adapted from recipe by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Serves 4

Ingredients for the Orange-Saffron Sauce:
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup orange juice
A healthy pinch of saffron, crumbled
A healthy pinch of sugar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the fish and greens):
1 1/2 pounds of tender spring greens, such as spinach
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter or vegetable oil, divided
A splash of water (no more than 3 tablespoons)
Grated zest of an orange
1 1/2 pounds of Copper River Salmon (or any wild salmon)

1.  Make the Orange-Saffron Sauce.  Make the sauce by bringing the white wine, orange juice, saffron, sugar and shallot to a boil in a small pot.  Simmer strongly for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and puree the sauce in a blender.  Return the sauce to the pot and turn the heat to low.  Add salt to taste and keep warm, but do not boil it or simmer it any further.

2.  Make the Greens.  Cook the greens in 2 tablespoons of butter or oil over high heat in a large saute pan, stirring constantly until they wilt. Add a splash of water, the orange zest and some salt and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium-low and steam the greens for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

3.  Sear the salmon.  Heat the remaining butter in a pan large enough to hold the fish.  (If you don’t have such a pan, put a baking sheet in the oven and set the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit so you can keep the fish warm as you do this in batches.)  Heat the butter over high heat until it stops frothing. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and set it skin-side down in the hot butter. Turn the heat down to medium-high for a typical fillet  or to medium if you are working with a thicker piece of fish.

4.  Continue cooking the salmon.  Let the fish cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then use a large spoon to baste the meat side of the fish with the hot butter. Baste the salmon for 90 seconds, then give it a rest. A thin fillet will only need one quick basting, but thicker pieces of fish will need a second or even third round of basting.  It took about four to five rounds of basting for the fillets that I had.  When the basting is done, salt the meat side. The skin side should lift off the pan easily after about 4 to 5 minutes of steady cooking. The moment you take the fish off the heat, salt the skin side.

5.  Finish the dish.  To serve, swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce, one tablespoon at a time. Pour some sauce on everyone’s plate. Top with the greens and then with a piece of fish. Serve immediately.

Overall, this is a great dish.  Clare and I really enjoyed the match of the salmon and the orange-saffron sauce.  Hank suggests other possible options when it comes to fish, such as sea-bass, bluefish, and walleye.  I think I may also try this recipe with rockfish, which is very plentiful around where we live. 



Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Nicely done! Looks like you nailed it. And yes, a sockeye is a good alternative to a big trout... maybe even better.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Nicely done! Looks like you nailed it. And yes, a sockeye is a good alternative to a big trout... maybe even better.

Keith Bolek said...

Thanks! I really enjoy reading your postings and your recipes. I wish I could obtain my ingredients as you do, but my day job is not very accommodating.

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