This might well be the best salmon I’ve ever tasted. Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, and I wanted to make something special. Since I’m a fish-and-vegetarian and the primary cook in my household, my red meat-loving husband rarely gets to indulge his taste for steak. I promised him a filet mignon – my first! – but wanted to be able to save time and share flavors by using the same preparation for a chunk of fish. The result was outstanding, and I still can’t believe how simple it was. Traditional Bordelaise uses beef marrow and demiglace; since I don’t eat red meat, I had to improvise. I’m sure French sauciers would be horrified, but don’t tell – it was delicious. The fish can be prepared this way without the sauce, as well.
For the fish, you will need:
- 1 lb. fresh or thawed wild Alaskan salmon fillet – I used a gorgeous chunk of flash-frozen sockeye
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 2 T kosher horseradish
- fresh thyme
- fresh rosemary
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
For the sauce, you will need:
- 1 c red wine
- a splash of port
- 1 shallot, minced
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- a bay leaf
- 1 c broth (I used unsalted vegetable bouillon)
- 2 T butter
- salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 500. Rinse the fish under cold running water. Pour olive oil into your palm and rub it all over the fish. Set the fillet skin-side down on a sheet of plastic wrap, and then smear the Dijon and horseradish all over the top.
2. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and coat the surface of the fish with the herbs. Shake salt over the top, and then cover in freshly cracked black pepper. Wrap the fish tightly in the plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
3. In a saucepan, combine the wine, port, shallot, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer until the wine is nearly all evaporated. Remove the thyme and leaf, and stir in broth. Use only the amount of broth needed to equal the sauce you want; Bordelaise has a strong flavor, and you won’t need much. Set the sauce aside.
4. Cover the bottom of an ovenproof skillet with olive oil and heat to medium high. Unwrap the salmon and sear it skin-side up for a couple of minutes, so the crust seals in the natural juice of the fish.
5. Flip the fillet so that the skin side is down, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake at high heat for around 10 minutes, checking periodically for doneness. Cooking time will depend upon the thickness of the fillet; be careful not to over cook. Remove from heat and let rest while you finish the sauce.
6. Reheat the sauce and add butter. Whisk it all together, and finish with salt and pepper to taste.
7. When you serve the fish, it should slide easily off its skin onto a plate. Spoon the sauce directly onto warmed dishes beneath the salmon, and then drizzle it over the top.
I served this with garlic mashed potatoes, braised leeks with chantrelle mushrooms and spinach, and a dry Spanish red. Enjoy!