Salmon filet with carrot purée, beets and orange vinaigrette
Thanks to technology, the fishing industry's methods for catching and freezing fish at sea have evolved so significantly that just-caught fish, processed at sea and flash frozen, are some of the highest quality available. This is especially true of salmon, albacore tuna, and certain cod species.
Before long, the first of the spring Chinook salmon will appear in the markets, but the fresh catch sometimes carries a price tag of over thirty dollars per pound. I purchase filets frozen at sea (they look like the ones in the photo) at half the price, and find them every bit as satisfying when my spring salmon cravings hit. Plus, it brings me back to the wisdom of FIFO ("first in, last out") and making good use of last season's bounty (especially when it's in season again!) before replenishing. With any luck, the 2017 salmon season will be plentiful, with enough fish to supply market demand and tuck some away too.
Pick up some young, sweet spring carrots and beets to create this classic combination of colors and flavors featuring salmon as the main attraction.
makes 4 servings
1 pound red beets, greens removed and stems and tail still attached
3 tablespoons olive or other cooking oil, divided
1 pound sweet carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Orange vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1-1/2 pounds salmon, or 4 salmon filets, 5 to 6 ounces each
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the beets in an ovenproof earthenware pan, pie tin, or stainless steel pan with low sides. Lightly drizzle the beets with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of salt over top, and put 3 to 4 tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven.
Roast the beets between 60 and 75 minutes, or until a small paring knife can be inserted in their flesh with little resistance. When they are ready, remove the beets from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan, covered, until they can be handled.
Meanwhile, place the carrots in a shallow pan. Cover them with cold water and add a large pinch of salt. Bring the water to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes or until the carrots are soft but not falling apart.
Peel the cooled beets with your fingers or a vegetable peeler, if the skin doesn't come off easily. Avoid using water to coax the skin free as it will dilute the flavors and add unnecessary moisture. Slice the peeled beets in 1/4-inch thick coins, or quarter them if you prefer. Salt lightly, add a splash of the orange vinaigrette, and toss to coat the beets thoroughly.
Drain the carrots when they are ready, saving about 1-1/2 cups of the water. Place the carrots in the bowl of a food processor with approximately 1 cup of the cooking water and puree until smooth. Add salt to taste, along with the lemon juice and tablespoon of butter, and more water if needed. Set the puree aside in a pan in which it can be reheated later.
When you are ready to prepare the fish, heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the salmon filets with salt and, when the oil is hot enough that the pan is almost smoking, carefully place the salmon pieces, flesh side down, in the pan. Reduce the heat as necessary to regulate the temperature while still allowing the salmon flesh to crisp up and brown. Begin reheating the carrot puree.
Once the salmon has browned nicely, turn it over. If medium rare is the desired temperature, the fish will only need a brief time in the pan on the skin side. (After removing the pan from the heat, a considerable amount of carry over cooking takes place as a result of the retained heat in the pan.) Focus your efforts on browning the flesh evenly, then turning the fish over to finish cooking while assembling the plates. You can remove the fish from the pan at any point after achieving the desired caramelization on the flesh side.
To serve, spoon some carrot puree in the center of each plate and top with a piece of salmon. Add the beets off to the side and drizzle vinaigrette over the top, making sure to include some of the orange segments.
2 oranges, zested, peeled and segmented, reserving the juices
1 medium shallot, finely minced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet vinegar such as Riesling, Muscatel or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the zest of one of the oranges, the reserved juice, shallot, olive oil and vinegar. Whisk the ingredients together with a fork and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and orange segments and set aside until ready to use.