A fish dish that sneaks up on you like a thief. An unlikely menu description, but its a good translation of both the name and flavor of chraimeh, a Sephardic recipe in which fish is braised in oil, garlic and a spicy tomato sauce… so explains Jenn Ladd of Milk Street. That spicy sauce has a way of tricking you.
“The origin of the word chraimeh is the thief, or like a bastard. The spice comes at the end. It kind of surprises you.”—Einat Admony, Tel Aviv native and New York City restaurateur
Start with easily accessible, affordable salmon fillets. Sliced jalapeño and scallions round out the aromatics, which are lightly browned in hot oil. For more distinct flavor, bloom whole cumin and coriander seeds, with ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika. Add to the mix diced tomatoes and their liquid, then nestle salmon fillets into the piquant sauce.
This weeknight easy dinner tops center-cut salmon fillets with chraimeh (pronounced KHRY-may), a simple and mildly spicy tomato sauce. The salmon cooks between 115°F and 120°F, which leaves the thickest part with some translucency. We like it a bit more well done at 125°F, so after simmering we removed the skillet from the heat and left the fillets in the covered pan until cooked to desired doneness, another 5 minutes or so.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to use fillets of widely varying thicknesses; they will require different cooking times. If unavoidable, begin checking the thinner fillets ahead of the thicker ones. Fresh mint and cilantro, as well as lemon and reserved scallion greens, finish the chraimeh. A drizzle of olive oil also gives it a final hit of richness.
The chraimeh would be equally as wonderful on halibut, bronzino, red snapper or even chicken or pork.
- 4 6-oz. center-cut salmon fillets
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts separated from dark green tops
- 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño chili, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin half-rings
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, lightly packed
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Season the salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the white and light green parts of the scallions, the garlic and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the coriander, cumin and paprika, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer, then nestle the fillets, skin side up, in the sauce. Reduce to medium, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the thickest parts reach 115°F to 120°F.
- Using tongs, carefully peel off and discard the skin from each fillet, then use a spatula to transfer to serving plates.
- If the sauce is watery, continue to simmer over medium-high until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Off heat, stir in the mint and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the salmon, sprinkle with the remaining scallion greens, then drizzle with olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges.
Recipe from Sandra Rose Gluck for Milk Street