Salmon a la Samuelsson

A long-time fan of Food Network, I often catch award-winning Chef Marcus Samuelsson as guest or judge on different shows such as The Taste and Chopped, where he was the winner of the second season of Chopped All-Stars. The Ethiopian-born Swede graduated from the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden, and apprenticed in Switzerland, Austria, and France—impressive!

On top of owning many restaurants, Marcus is also an author of several cookbooks, so when I found his Grilled Salmon with Aleppo-Honey Glaze, Turnips, and Kale recipe in our latest issue of Bon Appetit, I just had to give it a whirl. Here, zesty ginger-spiked vegetables are the perfect foil to this richly glazed fish. With all of these bold flavors, this is not a dish for the delicate palette, nor for the typical meat-and-potatoes guy.

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Now there are undoubtedly some ingredients that you won’t have in stock in your home pantry, or have ever even heard of. But that’s the beauty of enhancing your culinary repertoire—trying new things. So broaden your kitchen skills and take a stab at this tasty and healthy meal.

One item I was not familiar with, but that Russ has actually made in the past is dashi broth, an incredibly simple broth that forms one of the culinary cornerstones of Japanese cooking. It’s made in about 10 minutes with just three ingredients: water, kombu (dried kelp), and bonito fish flakes, which we had an unopened package of in the cupboard.

OK, I can hear you already, “yeah, right,” but trust me it is very simple. You can use dashi to make a fantastic bowl of miso soup (which is what Russ use to do), to poach fish or vegetables, or to add savory umami flavor to any number of Japanese dishes. You can also keep the dashi refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. We had some leftover and will use it to make a stir-fry sauce for the following week.

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As far as the other ingredients, we had black bean sauce on hand, but decided to pick up black bean paste at our local Asian market as we bought the kombu. Never having heard of “Sweety Drops,” we easily purchased it’s substitute peppadew peppers (shown above) at the regular supermarket. Pretty much everything else—including toban djan—we had in stock or handily found at the local grocery store.

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But just minutes before we were going to light the grill, Mother Nature put a kabash to our grilling plans with a torrential downpour, so we went to Plan B, which was pan-fry the fillets. Start with skin side up, then flip after about 10 minutes.

After a few minutes on the other side, start checking your salmon with a thermometer because at 110 to 125°F your salmon is medium rare; at 125°F to 140° you are beginning to enter medium to well-done territory—flakiness will increase, and a chalky texture will start to develop. So your goal is really to keep as much of the salmon below the 140°F temperature range (and preferably closer to the 125° range) as possible.

After boiling and marinating the thinly sliced turnips in essentially a LOT of mirin and ginger in the dashi, the end result produced sweet and gingery turnips that complimented well with the bitter kale and salty bacon bits. And that intensely rich sauce won our hearts. We were thrilled there were leftovers for another purpose. Unusual mix of ingredients, yes, but a meal we give two thumbs up! May have to check out more recipes from Marcus…

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Ingredients

For the Aleppo-honey glaze

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbs. black bean paste or sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Aleppo pepper, or 1 tbs. each crushed red pepper flakes and sweet paprika
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. toban djan or other chili paste
  • 3/4 cup Sweety Drops or coarsely chopped sweet peppadew peppers
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar

For the turnips and ginger

  • 2-1/2 cups dashi broth
  • 1-1/4 cups mirin
  • 3/4 lb. turnips, peeled and thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
  • 8 oz. peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the salmon and kale

  • 4 6-oz. skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. dinosaur kale, stems removed and leaves thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 slices bacon (about 2 oz.), cooked and chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Preparation

Make the glaze

  • In a medium bowl, combine the honey, bean paste, Aleppo pepper, and toban djan. Purée the peppers and rice vinegar in a blender, and whisk into the honey mixture.
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Cook the turnips and ginger

  • Bring the dashi and mirin to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Add the turnips and ginger, and cook until the turnips are tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool in the broth, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the ginger. Strain the turnips from the liquid and reserve for some future use.
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Grill the salmon and cook the kale

  • Prepare a medium (350°F to 375°F) gas or charcoal grill fire. Brush the salmon lightly on both sides with 1/2 Tbs. of the oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill the fish, flipping once, until medium rare (125°F). Remove from the grill and brush each fillet with 1 tsp. of the glaze. Reserving any remaining glaze.
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  • Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kale and cook, tossing until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the turnips and bacon, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
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  • To serve, divide the vegetables among four plates. Top with the grilled fish, and sprinkle with the scallions. Pass the remaining glaze at the table.

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Update: With a good portion of the sauce leftover, a week later we used it on some grilled tuna steaks.

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