With Maple-Soy Glaze
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You know who I’ve always envied? Those effortless campers. The people who can haul themselves out into nature and just live that effortless-looking wilderness-glamorous lifestyle. Basically the people you see in an SUV commercial. Maybe those people don’t actually exist. I don’t know. But I’ve always had a hit-and-miss relationship with camping. I’ve enjoyed some great experiences in the past – waking up in sunny prairie coulees, watching Golden Eagles crest over the cliffs in northern Peace Country, listening to the (thankfully) distant howls of prairie coyotes – some pretty spectacular stuff really. But I’ve also had my fair share of not-so-photogenic camping moments. A deflated air mattress and flooded tent at three in the morning. Arriving at an isolated campground late and getting locked out. Wind so ferocious that my tent was bent down to about 6 inches above my face. Actually come to think of it, all three of those experiences led to me sleeping in a car – something I have surprisingly positive feelings about. I guess when the alternative is being pummeled by the elements, the reclined front-seat of a Chevy feels surprisingly posh.
But what about the food? Well most of my camping experiences were pre-Diversivore, and I’ll be entirely honest with you – I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to my food. I seem to recall a lot of sandwiches. Now that I’m older and (arguably) wiser, I’ve come to value of good food to a great camping experience. So when BC Wild Salmon asked me to put together a great camping-friendly salmon recipe I dove in with gusto.
Simple + Delicious = Perfection
When I started tossing recipe ideas around, I had to figure out how best to balance flavour and simplicity. Camping forces you to focus on your preparation and a minimal tool-set after all. And while those are valuable concepts to focus on, I also wanted to put together a meal that I‘d be proud to serve in any setting and to anyone. I focused on big flavours and a simple-but-memorable combination of salty and sweet, yielding a dish that’s equally at home on a campsite, in a weeknight meal-prep plan, or at a fancy dinner. It’s great topped with crispy fried shallots (which you can either make ahead of time or buy as-is), but that’s an optional element. The salmon, sesame, and sauce all partner beautifully, with a fantastic East-West fusion flavour that pairs wonderfully with simple sides and vegetables. Honestly, this is easily one of my new favourite salmon recipes, and I’m over the moon about how quickly and easily it can be put together. And it truly is easy to make – a camping stove, a skillet, and a spatula are really all you need. There’s an option for grilling too, in case you want to take that route.
Not a camper? No worries. This is one of those meals that adapts to pretty much any kind of situation. Need something on a weeknight? No problem – keep some sauce frozen and have it ready in minutes. Looking to do meal prep? Freeze individual salmon portions and portions of sauce in an ice cube tray. Got fresh salmon and just want to cook up something wonderful and different? Easy-peasy. The how-to is broken down in the Recipe Notes section below and there are a few variations you can use depending on whether you’re prepping this for camping, future meals (i.e. frozen meal prep), or immediate use.
Easy easy easy. I could probably stop there, but it never hurts to go into some detail for those who need it. If you’re an old hand at cooking salmon, you can probably jump right into the recipe itself – but if you’ve had a few of your fish recipes fall flat before, or you’re looking for help with camping (etc.) prep, read on.
Salmon is a chronically overcooked food, and I think a lot of people have negative (or at least less-than-positive) reactions to it because they haven’t had it done well. Salmon shouldn’t be cooked to the point that it’s a solid brick that crumbles apart easily. While you want fish to flake apart (to varying degrees depending on the species), properly cooked salmon should be quite moist and still fairly dark (relative to the initial colour of the fish of course) in the thickest section. In fact, I don’t think that ‘flaky’ is a particularly good term to describe the thick portion of a properly cooked salmon fillet. Comparing it to steak might be a bit more appropriate – in which case, shoot for ‘medium.’
It’s not easy to describe salmon cooking in terms of time, as the thickness of the piece of fish can vary so much. That being said, if you’re cooking with fairly high and direct heat, I find that you seldom need more than 10-12 minutes, and often less than that. Though it takes a bit of practice, you can tell quite a bit about the doneness of salmon by touching it. If it’s very soft and doesn’t have any springiness too it (i.e. it feels raw), it’s not done. If it feels completely solid without any real give to it, it’s overcooked. So you’re shooting in the middle – firm but with a bit of springiness and softness that rebounds a bit when poked gently with a finger.
Making and Keeping the Sauce
Regardless of the venue you intend to cook this in, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time in order to cut down your cooking time. You can also make it right before cooking the salmon if you’re cooking at home and not in any kind of hurry. Even if you’re preparing the sauce from scratch the entire meal shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes, start-to-finish.
The liquid ingredients in the sauce (soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar) can all be combined along with the black pepper and brought to a simmer on the stovetop. This sauce is reduced down by about 1/3, then the corn starch (mixed with a very small amount of water) is stirred in to further thicken it. At this point, you can proceed with the recipe or set the sauce aside for future use. It can be refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen. I recommend freezing it in an ice cube tray (or similar) so that you can defrost individual portions. This makes it easy to adjust to the number of people you’re serving, easy to pack, and maximally simple for make-ahead meal prep.
Because the sauce is finished in the skillet (combining with the leftover butter and deglazing the tasty browned bits), you’ll want to make sure that you defrost it before you start cooking.
If you do plan to take this recipe camping, it’s worth noting a few aspects that will make your prep, packing, and cooking easier.
This is primarily intended to be prepared in individual servings – i.e. individual pieces of salmon topped with sauce. This allows you to adjust the recipe to reflect the number of campers (if you’d prefer to serve a whole fillet, keep reading the Grilling Variation below). Depending on how many people you’re cooking for, you can cut individual fillet pieces (about 1.5-2 inches wide) and either freeze them or put them in a cooler for use within 24 hours. Regardless of the method you can cover the top in sesame seeds ahead of time, or do it right before cooking. If you freeze the fillets (and/or the sauce) be sure to defrost them completely before cooking.
Make-Ahead Meal Prep
This is a lot like camping prep, but you store things a little differently. Individual uncooked salmon portions (with or without sesame seeds on top) can be frozen and then placed in a container or freezer bag with a portion of frozen sauce (2 ice-cube-sized portions of sauce should be more than enough). Simply defrost and use as many portions as needed at any given time.
Individual portions or entire salmon fillets can be grilled over an open fire or coals. Place the salmon (skin-side down) on an aluminum foil sheet along with a bit of butter and a drizzle of oil and lay over a grill carefully. It’s difficult to brown the sesame seed side this way, but you can still cook the salmon through by either gently turning the fillet pieces over or by folding the foil over to make a packet surrounding the salmon. It’s tough to capture the melted butter for the sauce if you cook the salmon this way, so you’ll probably want to add a bit of butter (1 tsp or so) to the sauce before serving. The flavour isn’t exactly the same without deglazed brown bits from a frying pan, but it’s a perfectly delicious alternative if you’re working with a grill/fire-pit and you don’t have a frying pan. If you want to cook this as a whole fillet (or large fillet portions) you can, though it’s a bit trickier to cook evenly. Simply prepare the salmon as you would for the smaller portions (i.e sesame seeds on top) and cut the finished product up into individual servings. You can also cook larger fillet portions in a frying pan, though I personally think it’s easier to just work with smaller portions.
Serving (Fried Shallots, etc.)
Not to complicate things for you, but if you CAN serve this with fried shallots, I highly suggest that you go for it. They add texture and a wonderful flavour that really sets off the sesame and maple-soy glaze, further amping-up the pan-Asian/fusion flavour profile that’s going on. You can make your own fried shallots very easily ahead of time by thinly slicing shallots and adding them (in relatively small batches to avoid crowding) to a frying pan or wok with a few inches of very hot vegetable oil. The shallots are deep-fried until light brown and then drained with a slotted spoon on some paper towel. The flavoured oil that results from this cooking method is a wonderful ingredient in its own right, but that’s a subject for a different day. Search for shallot oil and fried shallot recipes for more on this subject. Homemade fried shallots will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so. You can also buy fried shallots at some stores, and you could try out any crispy/crunchy alternative topping that tickles your fancy. Fried tempura bits (available at some Japanese stores) would be great too.
Aside from the shallots, a little sliced scallion (green onion) provides a lovely visual accent and pop of flavour. Fresh peas are great too, if you’ve got them. Starchy sides like rice or roasted potatoes are especially nice as an accompaniment. If you’re feeling fancy and looking to serve this up at a dinner party (etc.), over roasted or pureed parsnips or sunchokes would be fantastic. But don’t worry – the salmon stands out brilliantly on its own, so don’t feel like you have to do a whole lot to make it work.
Nutritional info is given for a single serving (1/6 total recipe).
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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A delicious and delightfully simple salmon recipe that can be made ahead and finished in minutes. Perfect for camping, weeknights, meal prep, or company!
- 600 g Salmon fillet
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp corn starch
- fried shallots
- scallion greens chopped
Remove the scales and pin bones from the salmon fillet, if it hasn't already been done. Leave the skin on.
Cut the salmon fillet into individual portions.
Fill a shallow bowl with the sesame seeds. Dip the tops of the salmon fillet portions into the sesame seeds so that a sesame 'crust' is formed, then set the fish aside.
Prepare the sauce, if you haven't already done so.
Heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil and melt/swirl to cover the bottom.
Add the fish, skin side down. Cook until the skin is browned and the fish is starting to cook through from the bottom (about 4-5 minutes). Spoon butter/oil over the tops of the fillets as they cook.
Gently flip the fish over and cook, sesame-seed-side down, for an additional 2 minutes or so. Remove the finished fish from the pan.
Add the finished sauce to the hot pan. It will quickly come to a boil, so don't let it sit in the pan too long or it will scorch the sugars. Pour the sauce (now combined with butter/oil and some stray sesame seeds) into a bowl to serve.
Serve the salmon fillets with sauce poured over top. Garnish with chopped scallions and fried shallots, if using.
Combine all of the ingredients except for the corn starch in a small pot.
Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce to low. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by about 1/3.
Combine the corn starch with about 1 tbsp of water in a small bowl. Whisk/mix until well-combined, then stir into the sauce to thicken it somewhat. Set the finished sauce aside. It can be refrigerated for a week, or frozen for many months.
If you're preparing the salmon for meal-prep or camping, simply make the sauce ahead of time and coat the salmon fillets in sesame seeds. They can be refrigerated (or kept in a cooler) like this for 24 hours, or frozen for later use.