Salmon worked wonderfully in this easy yet exotic meal, but halibut would also shine as would walleye, rockfish and most other fillets.
Saffron, the dried stigmas of crocus flowers, imbues food with a rich yellow-orange color and distinctive flavor that goes especially well with fish. Since it only takes a healthy pinch of the crumbled filaments, it’s not as expensive to use as you might think. We’ve been using Spanish coupe grade saffron from Penzeys Spices and have been very happy with it.
Crocus sativus, the saffron crocus – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saffron8.jpg
This is our take on a recipe we found in a recent addition to our cookbook collection, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Their recipe calls for hake, chorizo and clam juice. Along with a few other minor changes, we substituted salmon fillets, thick-cut bacon and fish broth made from salmon and added a bit of powdered chipotle, cayenne and mesquite to emulate chorizo’s spicy smokiness. With most of the fat rended from the bacon, and the cooked bacon then pressed between paper towels, this is a healthful, satisfying one-bowl dinner. Add hunks of crusty rustic-style bread, and while you can seldom go wrong with salmon and Chardonnay, try pairing this dish with a Riesling that has a hint of sweetness to it.
Salmon in Saffron Broth with New Potatoes
- extra virgin olive oil
- sweet onion, chopped fine
- thick-cut bacon, fried, pressed between paper towels and cut into small pieces
- garlic cloves, minced
- fish stock – clear, preferably homemade from fresh fish as we’ve found it difficult to obtain quality fish stock otherwise. Or use clam juice.
- dry white wine
- small red or yellow potatoes
- seasonings: bay leaf, marjoram, soy sauce (or sea salt), chipotle powder, cayenne pepper, and mesquite (for additional smokiness)
- salmon fillets, skin removed and fillets patted dry (We felt that almost any type of fish would work well in this dish.)
- freshly ground black pepper
- chervil or parsley
- fresh lime juice
This works best in a sauteuse pan. You don’t need a lot of broth in this dish – perhaps a cup or so per serving. The potatoes and fish should rest in the broth, not be completely covered by it.
- Sauté the onions in olive oil. When they just begin to caramelize, add the minced garlic and crumble in the saffron. Cook for about 30 seconds, just till the garlic releases its aroma.
- Stir in fish stock and wine.
- Add potatoes and the seasonings – just a little of each as you can always add more if you need to. Give the broth a taste. If the flavor of the fish stock or clam juice is too strong, add a bit of water.
- Keep heat fairly low, at – or preferably just below – a low simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender – almost ready to serve. Taste broth and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Season the salmon fillets with freshly cracked pepper. Create space in the pan and position the salmon fillets skinned side down in the broth. Cook at or just below a low simmer for 7 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. With salmon, you’ll see white albumin form on the fillet when it is cooked through. You can check with a thermometer – 140° F for fish.
- Remove pan from heat. Gently stir in a little lime juice and a sprinkle of chervil or parsley.
- Serve in shallow bowls, spooning some broth over the fillet.