Asian Salmon (Easy)

This dish can easily over-power any wine you pair it with, and the sauce can easily overpower the salmon!  I’ve adjusted the ingredients to allow the salmon to remain in the limelight, but you may want to adjust further.  Recipe feeds six.

Salmon is one of the more controversial fish you can buy these days.  Mention “farmed salmon” to most foodies and you’ll likely start a fight – the prevailing wisdom being that it’s bad for the environment, cross-breeding with and weakening the wild salmon population and killing off all of the plant and ocean life directly under each salmon pen.  And honestly, the things are huge.

But increasingly, inland aqua farmers are improving their animal husbandry techniques, as you can see on the latest version of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site, where a little browsing will bring you to the phrase – “Salmon farmed on land in “closed” or “contained” farms is a viable alternative that points the way to a more environmentally-friendly future for salmon farming.”   One of our favorites is the sustainably farmed salmon from Scotland’s Loch Duart – it can be nearly as pricey as the wild-caught salmon, but we choose to make the sacrifice despite these tight economic times, as we figure it’s an investment in our daughter’s future.

Ingredients
2 – 2  1/4 pounds Salmon fillet
1/2 Cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 Cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 Cup lemon juice (from ~ 2 medium lemons)
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce or oyster sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Clove garlic, minced fine
1  1/2 Cups panko bread crumbs
Aluminum foil

Procedure
Heat oven to 500.  Line and 8X12 pan with the foil, and coat lightly with olive oil before laying salmon skin-side down.  Whisk together all ingredients except the bread crumbs.  Pour 1/3 of the liquid over the salmon, then with the bread crumbs.  Pour remaining liquid onto crumbs, lifting fish to allow run-off to seep underneath.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes before baking for 20 minutes.

Serve with wilted greens such as spinach sautéed in olive oil, anchovy paste and garlic, or bok choy steamed in soy sauce.

Wine pairings – a light pinot noir, sangiovese, or an aromatic white such as a Riesling, Vermentino, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Bland.  But the best pairing may just be with a crisp rosé of Grenache.

Steak “au Poivrade” – Cracked pepper sauce (easy)

Sometimes one must eat dinner alone, though I must admit I don’t care to.  To offset such misfortunes, I turn solo meals into a treat with a recipe that’s satisfying but easy enough to justify cooking for one. This is such a dish, a favorite from my bachelor days.  But please don’t feel compelled to save it for a night on your own – it works just as well for two.  Or a crowd.

There are two keys to success here.  A heavy pan (a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal) and freshly ground peppercorns.  I recommend green peppercorns here, as they are significantly milder than their black counterpart, and won’t fight the wine.  If black peppercorns are all you have, use half the amount called for.  And while steaks are welcome at my house in all seasons, the backbone of mild heat that runs through this sauce will warm the cockles of the coldest Winter-chilled heart!  A great cold-weather dish.  (Image from Shawna’s Food Blog – click to find another recipe for comparison)

Ingredients

1 Steak / person (about ¾ pound if bone-in)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Shallot – minced
¼ Cup cognac (or red wine, in a pinch)
¼ Cup red wine
2 tsps green peppercorns, roughly smashed
1/3 Cup cream (or a bit less, with a good pat of butter whisked in at the end)
Salt & freshly-ground pepper to taste

Procedure
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat for several minutes.  Season the steak with salt & pepper and prepare your ingredients.  Remove pan from heat, add oil and quickly tilt to coat evenly.  Return to heat and add steak – do not move until it is time to flip!  Cook to preferred doneness, remembering the meat continues cooking after removing it from the pan.  Cover and place in warm oven.  (Alternatively, grilling the steak adds nice complexity)

In the pan, adjust the fat so there is a scant tablespoon.  Add the minced shallot and sauté a few minutes until lightly browned.  Pour in cognac and deglaze the pan. Add the red wine, raise heat to med-high and reduce liquid by ¼.  Add the peppercorns and whisk in the cream.  Reduce sauce until it coats the back of a spoon.  Whisk in cold butter, if using, and serve as desired – this sauce is nice whether served as a base, a topping or on the side.  And don’t under-estimate its deliciousness when used to top potatoes or steamed vegetables!

Wine Pairings – Pair this with bold reds such as Zinfandel, Syrah, Rhone blends or new world Cabernets or Bordeaux blends.