Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Caramelized Salmon with Chilled Pea Soup

Summer is coming so soon! We've had a run of early summery weather, which my garden and children are loving! I'm trying to love it, too, and not think about how much the air conditioning is running already (and it's only May! Yikes!) So here's a summery meal. The soup is equally delicious hot, but hot soup + hot day = no. Just no.

The first time I had salmon, my mom had made some sort of delicious salmon cake. Not  usually a fish person (at that time), I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The next day, I had some sort of allergic reaction. So I avoided salmon, thinking that I was allergic to it. They were sad times, my friends. Sad times.

In the meantime, I grew to love seafood. Shrimp and halibut and tilapia, cod, sole -- I'll probably eat just about any white fish you offer. But still no salmon. It made me so sad, because I really liked it!

So a couple of years ago, I ventured to try it again just to make sure. And lo and behold! No issues whatsoever. So basically, I'm making up for lost time and eating as much salmon as I can  -- I was missing out on so much yumminess! Plus it's nutritious, and the B really loves it!

This preparation makes the best of simple ingredients, and really brings out the best salmon has to offer. If you're thinking about skipping the pea soup, think again! It's simple to make the day before and is the perfect complement to round out the meal. The combination is so summery and light. And since you've already made the soup the night before, dinner can be minutes away when you get home from a long day of work (or play). This was my favorite meal last summer, and I hope it will be one of your favorites, too.

Caramelized Salmon

1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. flaky sea salt (I use Maldon), crumbled OR 1 Tbsp. table salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4, 4 oz. skin-on salmon fillets
olive oil

Combine the sugar, salt, and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Dip each filet into the bowl and coat the entire surface of the salmon with the sugar/salt mixture.
Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet (or other broiler-safe pan) over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the salmon, skin side down in the pan, and saute for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to high heat.
Carefully flip each salmon fillet and saute for another 2-3 minutes. If the fillet is thick enough, flip to the side and briefly saute each of the sides, then flip back to top-side-up position.
Sprinkle the top of each salmon filet with a teaspoon or two of additional sugar/salt mixture. Transfer the pan from the stovetop into the oven. Let the salmon broil for 5-8 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it's not burning. The sugar in the pan might look burnt but that's okay as long as the tops of the salmon are looking golden brown. When the salmon is done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes -- that caramelized sugar is very hot!. Remove the skin before serving -- I usually slide my spatula right between the fillet and the skin, leaving the skin in the pan.

Chilled Pea Soup 

1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 c. chopped leeks, white and light green parts (1 leek)
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1, 10 oz. package frozen peas
1/3 c. chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. creme fraiche, plus more for serving
1/4 c. chopped chives, plus more for serving

Heat the butter or oil over medium-low heat, add the leeks and onion and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the stock, increasing the heat to high, and bring it to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the mint, salt, and pepper.

If you have an immersion/stick blender, stick it right in the pot and carefully puree until it's as smooth as you like it. Otherwise, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender or food processor. Once pureed, whisk in the creme fraiche and chives, taste and adjust seasonings. Chill thoroughly -- overnight would be best. Serve cold with a dollop of creme fraiche and snipped chives.

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