Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

~by Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking~

The side carrot slaw was surprisingly tasty with only three ingredients and paired well with the salmon. To round off the meal, we combined two kinds of leftover risotto. Perfect meal when you don’t have a lot of time to cook.

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Dark caramel is so commonly used in Vietnamese kitchens that it’s often made in batches and kept by the stove. While it adds a hint of sweetness, it’s prized more for its savory, toasty notes. On salmon, it’s incredible, especially when paired with a tangy carrot slaw to balance the flavors.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated or julienned (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably wild, pin bones removed, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

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Swirling the sugar to create the “caramel.”

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Simmering the cubed salmon with the caramel sauce.

Directions

  1. Heat the sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, tilting the pan occasionally to help the sugar melt evenly, until dark amber (like maple syrup), about 3 minutes. (If your pan is dark, test the color by dribbling some on a white plate.) Remove from the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water; it will steam and bubble.
  2. Put the skillet over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the lime juice and the fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick enough for a spoon to leave a trail in the skillet, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, cilantro, and the remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice. Season to taste with more lime juice and salt.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the caramel sauce and 3/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the fish and toss gently to coat. Distribute the fish in a single layer and simmer vigorously, stirring once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the carrots.
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