Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crispy-Skin Salmon with Buttermilk-Mint Sauce

While growing up I don't think that I had any idea that buttermilk existed.  The only time I might have been exposed to it, even peripherally, was when I was at college and grew to seriously love buttermilk biscuits.  In the past year I have discovered that buttermilk might just be one of the best things ever to have in your fridge.  Buttermilk is great for marinating chicken - either real fried or oven-baked "fried" chickens both benefit from a bath in buttermilk.  The chicken is so much more flavorful and moist after a buttermilk bath!  Buttermilk is also instrumental in making some of the moistest cakes I have ever had the pleasure to bake (and then eat).  And then there are buttermilk biscuits.  Which I love.  You obviously can't make a buttermilk biscuit if you don't have any buttermilk in the fridge.

I grew up eating salmon, but the idea of eating salmon skin never occurred to me when I was younger.  We ate a lot of salmon, but it was always roasted in the oven and the skin was certainly never crispy.  Then I tried Tyler Florence's recipe for Salt and Pepper Salmon and it totally changed my life.   Who knew crispy salmon skin could be so delicious?  We eat salmon fairly often now for a variety of reasons.  First, unlike a nice tuna steak, it doesn't have to cost $20 a pound (although I must admit that this wild salmon I bought today for tonight's dinner did in fact cost $19.99 a pound, which is totally scandalous).  Second, it is so versatile and can be delicious if prepared correctly.  Lastly, salmon's fattiness makes it a little more forgiving to cook than a lot of other fish.  There is nothing worse than spending $20 on a pound of fish and then having to throw the entire thing in the trash because you didn't cook it quite right.  And to be perfectly honest, that has happened to me more than few times.  Depressing, I know.

This recipe combined two things - buttermilk and crispy salmon skin - that have become relatively recent faves of mine, with a few things I have always loved, like fresh mint.  We served the salmon with baby spinach and Swiss chard simply sauteed in evoo with shallots, garlic, and a touch of lemon juice.  It was a lovely meal.  The salmon skin was nice and crispy, and the buttermilk-mint sauce made the whole dish seem very tangy and fresh.  Salmon cooked medium-rare is very rich, but when served with this sauce and the sauteed veggies it made the whole dish seem much lighter.  Either way it would have been delicious, but I really did enjoy the sauce.  It was a very interesting and delicious take on one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon!

Recipe after the jump!

Crispy-Skin Salmon with Buttermilk-Mint Sauce
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
By Matt & Ted Lee

1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup creme fraiche (the recipe calls for sour cream, but we were out)
1 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp evoo
1 lb skin on wild salmon fillets
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine mint, buttermilk, creme fraiche, and 1/2 tsp salt in food processor.  Pulse until thoroughly combined. 

Cut salmon into individual fillets (if the fishmonger hasn't already done so).  Sprinkle skin with 1 tbsp kosher salt to help draw out moisture and crisp up the skin.  Drizzle 1 tbsp evoo over skin and rub the oil in.  Sprinkle fish with black pepper and then turn fish over, seasoning lightly with a tiny bit of additional s&p.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tbsp evoo to hot pan.  When the oil in the skillet is smoking, lay the fillets in the pan, skin side up and cook until the skin is blistered, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon over and cook until salmon is medium-rare, about 2 additional minutes.  Remove salmon from pan.  

Serve salmon skin side up on top of sauteed spinach and Swiss chard, with spoonfuls of buttermilk-mint sauce.

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