Asian Grilled Salmon

Asian Grilled Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Asian Grilled Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Fast and Elegant Supper”

The Set-up: Ina’s friend Frank is coming for dinner and she’s cooking up a feast in no time flat.

The Menu: Asian Grilled Salmon, Sautéed Asparagus and Snap Peas, Pear Clafoutis, Zucchini Vichyssoise

0:24 – We’re beginning with theZucchini Vichyssoise, possibly the most difficult to spell recipe ever invented. Seriously, I had to look up 100% of the words.

1:06 – Even though it’s impossible to spell, Ina likes it because soup is an easy made-ahead dish and this one has the double benefit of being served cold. You know, like revenge…

2:45 – Ina is leaving the skins on the potatoes because they’ll be pureed and filtered out when the soup is processed through the food mill. Sounds reasonable.

3:17 – Onward to the Pear Clafoutis which Ina says is basically a pancake with fruit cooked in it. I made one last summer with cherries to mixed reviews – it seems that neither of us are that fond of custards.

4:38 – A little cooking math from Ina – did you know that 1/4 cup is equal to 4 tablespoons? Cue the More You Know star…

5:21 – Ina says that some pear brandies have a whole pear in the bottle which sounds amazing, but how do you get that delicious pear out?

6:13 – Ina confirms that cherries are the traditional fruit for clafoutis, but you already knew that from my post last year.

9:32 – Time to puree the vichyssoise and finish the soup. Ina has a well documented love of the food mill, but I have honestly never used one. They seem a little cumbersome for a small kitchen.

10:59 – Now for the main event: Asian Grilled Salmon. Ina can’t remember how many times she’s made this, but from her tone it’s probably in the neighborhood of a metric ton.

11:20 – Apparently the marinade is used in two ways – first to flavor the fish ahead of cooking and then later as a sauce. 

12:45 – As if the marinade working overtime weren’t enough, Ina says that this recipe makes great leftovers so she always makes extra. Efficiency!!

13:56 – The soy sauce in the marinade is what makes this Asian, but I’d also love to try it with grated fresh ginger. I bet that would be really good too.

14:18 – Now that dinner is 90% finished Ina has left the premises and Miguel has arrived to set the table.

15:03 – Florist Pro Tip from Miguel: if you don’t have a flower frog, make a grid over the opening of the vase with scotch tape to hold the flowers in place.

19:17 – Back to prep the fruit for the Pear Clafoutis. Firm, but ripe pears are best and Ina has buttered and sugared the pan.

20:30 – Ina has placed the sliced pears in the dish to make a gorgeous pattern, which reminds me a lot of the process for Apple Cake Tatin.

21:55 – Even though this is called Asian Grilled Salmon it turns out that Ina is cooking indoors. Good news for me since an actual grill is out of the question right now.

22:24 - Sautéed Asparagus and Snap Peas are the side dish Ina is serving along with the salmon. Relevant to your interests: they’re both in season during late spring/early summer, so basically right now.

23:41 – In case you’re wondering, this does count as a green vegetable in my book and I bet the combination is great with the salmon.

 26:32 – The salmon is coming off the grill pan and Ina suggests placing it skin-side down on a platter so that the reserved marinade/dressing/sauce poured over it will be absorbed.

 27:11 – A final drizzle of sauce, a final flip of the vegetables, and the vichyssoise is ladled into the most charming little tureens and sprinkled with a few snips of chives.

 28:40 – Ina’s guessing that dinner will be so elegant that her guests won’t realize how easy it was.

29:12 – The Pear Clafoutis goes over well – it’s Miguel’s particular favorite – and everyone agrees to come back, even if dinner is Chinese takeout.

Final Thoughts:
Ina’s recipes, while fairly simple, do take a little doing and a fair amount of time, so I love it when she cooks something that’s really quick!

I am seriously thinking of tinkering with that marinade recipe and making a ton of different versions of grilled salmon - can I get some taste-testers?

I wonder if Ina feels terrific pressure when she has guests – the expectations of dinner prepared by the Barefoot Contessa must be pretty high.

Asian Grilled Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Asian Grilled Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
absolutely love salmon but since I’ve started cooking it at home I’ve never tried marinating it, which seems like a serious gap in my repertoire. Asian Grilled Salmon is seriously simple (just 5 ingredients including the salmon) and takes about 15 minutes to prepare not counting the marinating time.

Flavor - One of the primary things I learned is how much flavor can be developed with truly minimal ingredients. I want to cook simply, but I still feel the urge to keep adding and adding when perhaps a more limited list would work just as well. Something to keep in mind….

“Grilling” – I put that word in quotes due to my lack of charcoal (Webers aren’t really conducive to apartment living.) However, as Ina demonstrated this recipe is 100% doable without a grill or even a grill pan, the cooking time (5 minutes per side) is exactly the same, so don’t let that a lack of grilling equipment hold you back! Definitely turn on the exhaust fan, or rig one up with a small fan in the closest window – this lets off a lot of smoke and sizzle.

Tools – This is a time when a fish spatula (metal, slim, very flexible) would have been helpful, if you have one definitely bust that baby out and use it. I made do with a standard spatula, but I’m coveting this one from Kuhn Rikon that combines sturdy stainless steel and a silicone edge. Trust the Swiss for perfection, right?

Asian Grilled Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Asian Grilled Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Oh yes. I used a cast iron grill pan (a sauté pan would work too), a glass baking dish for marinating, a metal spatula, small cutting board, chef’s knife, small bowl, measuring spoons, and a tablespoon for mixing. That’s it!

The Verdict:
The flavor in Asian Grilled Salmon is A-mazing and belies the simplicity of the marinade and the amount of effort required. I made this for a midweek dinner and both Mike and I were in heaven. The reserved marinade has the perfect amount of salt from the soy sauce, a little heat from the mustard and is begging to be the dressing over a pile of baby spinach, roasted asparagus or broccoli. Ina was definitely telling the truth – this dinner is fast and fabulous.

Asian Grilled Salmon  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Asian Grilled Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith