By Chef Martin Kouprie

Pangaea Restaurant, Toronto


Mahogany-glazed salmon has been on the Pangaea menu since day one. Patrons love it because it’s light but still complex and satisfying. When you decide to make it yourself, either buy a side of wild Pacific salmon from your fishmonger or ask them to sell you six skin-on scaled fillets with the pin bones removed. If wild salmon isn’t in season, choose a sustainable fish that is.

At Pangaea, we rotate salmon with ocean trout and arctic char, depending on the time of year. You can check to see what fish are recommended as best choices on any given day at www.seafoodwatch.com. They even have an iPhone application that I have on my phone so I can check availability anytime, anywhere!

Makes 6 servings

Salmon
6 skin-on wild Pacific salmon fillets (about 7 or 8 ounces each)
1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil

Vegetables
6 heads baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
1 cup peeled fresh water chestnuts or drained canned whole water chestnuts
2 cups shiitake mushrooms caps
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup sliced pickled ginger, drained (divided)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caramel lime butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup chilled cubed unsalted butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper

Salmon: Arrange the salmon fillets in a single layer in a casserole or nonreactive roasting pan. Pour soy sauce over salmon fillets and turn to coat. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or for up to 4 hours.

Vegetables: Wash the bok choy under cold running water until completely grit free. Plunge into boiling salted water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer the bok choy to an ice bath. Chill completely; drain well. Place on a tray and reserve in the refrigerator. Slice the water chestnuts into thin rounds and place in cold water. Wipe the mushroom caps clean with a slightly damp cloth; slice each mushroom into thin strips.

Caramel lime butter: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and water; bring to a boil. Allow the liquid to reduce until it forms a topaz-coloured caramel, about 5 minutes. Standing so that your face and body are out of splatter range, add the lime juice (the caramel will harden and look split for a few moments and then liquefy as it cooks) and continue to cook for an additional minute. Remove the lime-caramel mixture from the heat and cool slightly.

Reduce the heat to low and return the mixture to the stovetop (this is to temper the caramel mixture slightly so that the butter doesn’t split when you begin adding it). Using a whisk with fine, flexible tines, slowly whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time; whisk until almost completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 350º F. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Remove the salmon from the marinade and pat dry on paper towels. Place fish in the pan skin-side down; cook until browned, 3 or 4 minutes; turn and repeat. Transfer the pan with the salmon to the oven and cook until the salmon is firm but still slightly translucent in the centre, about 5 minutes.

While the salmon cooks, prepare the vegetables. In a large skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft and slightly caramelized. Drain the water chestnuts and add them, the garlic, bok choy, and half the pickled ginger. Cook stirring, until the bok choy is heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the vegetable mixture evenly into six portions and use a portion to make a nest in the centre of each of six serving plates. Top each nest with a piece of salmon, skin side up. Using about 1 teaspoon of pickled ginger for each plate, form rosettes and place next to vegetables. Drizzle caramel lime butter around salmon and serve.

From Pangaea. Why it tastes so good. By Chef Martin Kouprie. Key Porter Books, 2010. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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