Friday, August 9, 2013

Favorite Fish -- Sesame Teriyaki Salmon

(originally posted 5/29/10)

I don’t even remember when I first started making sesame teriyaki salmon. It had to be a long time ago, though, because it’s been the featured dish at so many events both large and small. I make it almost every time I go to Massachusetts to visit my mother, my sister Anne and her family (and now Anne makes it too). I’ve made it for New Year’s Eve dinner parties, book club gatherings, neighborhood progressive dinners, and Wednesday evening family suppers. Whenever someone says (incomprehensibly), “I don’t really care for fish,” I offer this dish to him or her, and nine out of ten times a convert is produced. Most significantly, both of my kids have requested this as their birthday dinner in recent years – a fact I consider a personal victory, as it sounded the death knell for Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Annie’s Shells as the foods of choice.

This is an ultra-simple recipe, using just a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand. I’ve altered it on numerous occasions (adding freshly grated ginger, for example), but always seem to return to the basics. I never measure, which tends to be a problem when trying to pass it on to others; so feel free to tweak the following recipe without the feeling that you’re altering something set in stone. Appropriately, it’s a zen kind of a recipe: one does what feels right, and that may vary according to the size of the garlic cloves, the proximity of the pan to the broiler, the thickness of the salmon and , of course, personal taste.

Last week, I made Sesame Teriyaki Salmon for some friends who gather on occasion to brush up on our French speaking skills – “le Club Francais.” Side dishes were orzo with lemon and herbs, and stir-fried veggies. This fish is both salty and sweet, and the powerful flavors call for rather straightforward accompaniments. Never hesitate to make some extra – it’s at least as good the next day as a cold or room-temperature treat.

Sesame Teriyaki Salmon

1. Get some good salmon fillet. I usually assume about 6 - 8 ounces per person, and look for the thick pieces (not the tail). Have the fishmonger skin it, unless you have a sharp fillet knife and plenty of confidence. When you get it home, cut the fish into portion-size pieces and place in a glass dish.

2. Find a glass jar with tight-fitting lid (I use an old pasta-sauce jar). Put the following ingredients in the jar (these are amounts for about 6 portions or 2 to 2 ½ pounds salmon):

- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
- Few dashes sesame oil
- Few dashes cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground (coarse) black pepper – to taste (I use a LOT)

3. Shake jar vigorously to blend ingredients.

4. Pour teriyaki sauce over salmon portions, turn to coat, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

5. Broil on top rack in foil-lined broiler pan, starting with skinned side up. Broil for about 2 to 3 minutes, until salmon begins to brown. Turn over salmon pieces, spoon some more teriyaki over, and top with sesame seeds. (I use a combination of regular and black seeds; whatever you have will be fine.) Broil until just cooked through and top is beginning to brown, 2 to 3 more minutes. Don’t overcook! If it browns too quickly, turn off the oven and let it sit on a lower rack in the warm oven for another minute or so. If you have the thin parts from the fish belly that brown and crisp, consider yourself lucky! This is the yummiest part.

6. If you have extra teriyaki sauce, you can boil it in a pan on the stove or in a Pyrex dish or measuring cup in the microwave, and use as sauce at the table. (I often make extra sauce just to have this option. My husband loves pouring it over plain rice.)


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