Friday, September 07, 2007

I think I can do better: Roasted Salmon with Fruited Glaze

That evening, before I started this post, Christina and I went to our neighborhood "comfort" restaurant, the Flying Biscuit in nearby Candler Park. I had a dish I recalled enjoying a year or two ago, CocaCola-glazed salmon. It was good. But it was not great. The salmon was roasted excellently. The limitation was the marinade and glaze. It wasn't the Coke, which is a Georgian conceit and used fairly harmlessly in barbecues here (see my web log posting for Coke-Bourbon marinade on 10/15/2006 -- click on the October 2006 archives). The sauce also contained (by my taste) some Worcestershire sauce and ketchup and maybe a little chili powder -- or worse yet a pre-mixed barbecue sauce -- and was a little too sweet even for my taste.

Disappointment being the mother of invention, I vowed to do better. I liked the Flying Biscuit's idea of juicy roasted glazed salmon fillet over a bed of "wilted" (read, briefly stir-fried) spinach and coarsely mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, accompanied by a glass of rich white wine. After guinea-pigging it on some student friends, here's my effort at improving on the Flying Biscuit's salmon, with all due respects to that fine and creative restaurant. And while we're at it, I'm adding recipes for the wilted spinach and mashed potatoes.

In terms of wines with the original meal, we had both an Australian Vignonier (vee nyohn' yay) and a Napa Valley Chardonnay. The latter is a better fit for the richness of salmon, especially if the fish has some sweet accents, as the glazed one did. Chardonnays are not my favorite whites, generally, but they seem ideal for salmon. Vignonier is a semi-rich regional white wine from southwestern France that was "rediscovered" and faddish over the past decade or so. This was the first one I tried from Australia (I do not recall the maker), and it was underwhelming. Go for a rich-flavored California or Australian Chardonnay for this salmon.

Roasted Fruited Glazed Salmon Tim
(serves 4) (prepare the potatoes, and spinach, if used, before roasting the fish)

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds salmon fillet (without skin), the freshest you can get

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam, put through a sieve
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Cut crosswise into four pieces. Mix the marinade ingredients well. Combine with the fish and allow to marinate at least half an hour, mixing occasionally. Or put everything into a zip-lock plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Heat oven to 500 degrees (and open the windows and switch off the smoke alarm). Place marinated fish on a cookie sheet (aluminum preferred), reserving any remaining marinade.

Roast the salmon in the upper part of the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and paint with the remaining marinade. Return to the oven and roast 3 minutes, or until a sharp knife tip inserted into the thickest part of the fish and twisted shows that the fish has turned lightly opaque. Remove from the oven. Serve salmon over a bed of mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. Accompany with a simple lettuce or field greens salad.

Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes

1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 medium-large clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk (for more exciting potatoes) or milk

Wash but do not peel potatoes. Cut in 1-inch chunks. Boil with the garlic in salted water (1/2 teaspoon salt) to cover the potatoes, until quite tender when pierced with a tooth pick. Drain. Add the butter, horseradish, salt, and pepper. Mash well. Add the milk and mash further. Taste and add salt as needed. Keep warm until served.

Wilted Spinach

10 ounces washed spinach leaves (alternately use frozen, thawed before cooking)
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
Generous sprinkle of salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Rinse fresh spinach leaves well then lift them out of the water to get off any sand, and discard tough stems and spoiled leaves. Let drain. Heat a large frying pan, add butter or oil, then spinach and a sprinkle of salt. Stir and fry spinach until it fully wilts. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serving the Fish

On each of four plates, lay down a bed of 1/4 of the mashed potatoes. Cover with 1/4 of the spinach. Place a piece of roasted salmon on top. Garnish with several thin wedges of tomato and a sprig of parsley. Accompany by a simple salad, crusty bread if desired, and a cold white wine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm a friend of your daughter's (rachel) and tried this meal last night for a date - it was AMAZING and was indeed better than the original! i can't wait to try other dishes from you. thank you!

10:33 AM  

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