Updated: 3 hours ago Posted: 3 hours ago
Wheelchair travelers that many of us are these days, food is a way to bring the flavors and scents of our favorite places and people to life. When I stop in Paris, a Franco-Vietnamese friend of mine always greets me with a wok filled with his mother’s recipe for Vietnamese caramel chicken, deeply satisfying with hints of chili and brown sugar. Not often a fan of sweet notes in my savory dishes, this wonderfully sticky mess is an exception. And since staying near home these days, I’ve riffed my friend’s recipe with what I have on hand, including lots of wild Alaskan seafood. It’s an easy version that makes the most of wild salmon, though that same sauce and cooking method brightens up wild cod, sablefish, and scallops; just be sure to vary the cooking time according to the thickness of the fillets. Leftovers make for a tasty dip, frittata, or flatbread filling.
Quick Caramel Salmon
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, with skin (or cod, sablefish or scallops)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, such as grape seed, peanut or avocado
The zest of a lime (about 1 teaspoon); juice of one lime (about 1 1/2 tablespoons of juice)
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons gochujang or crunchy garlic chili or other favorite chili paste
2 teaspoons of grated ginger (about a 2 inch piece)
1 medium garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
To serve: sliced green onion, jalapeño, steamed rice, cilantro and basil
Remove all the bones from the salmon; cut the fillet into 2-inch pieces and pat the salmon dry with paper towel. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not steaming. Pat the skin of the salmon dry and place it, skin side down, in the hot oil. Leave to cook, without disturbing, for about 5 minutes until the skin begins to become crisp and golden. Reduce heat as needed. Check the small pieces and remove them from the mold after 2 or 3 minutes; Keep in mind that the salmon should only be partially cooked, as it will return to the pan after preparing the sauce to finish cooking. Using a large spatula, gently remove the salmon, keeping the crispy skin intact. Remove the salmon to a plate, skin side up.
Reduce the heat to medium. In a medium bowl, combine lime zest and juice, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, gochujang (or other chili paste), garlic and black pepper; stir to combine. Add to the pan; stir so that the gochujang is well mixed with the sauce; add the salmon (skin side up) to the pan. Add 1/4 cup of water or wine to the pot. Brush fillets with sauce and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked through to desired doneness. Swirl in the butter. Taste and add more lime or soy sauce, as desired. Serve fillets with rice and garnish with green onions, jalapeño and herbs.