Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday Dinner: Roasted Salmon Steaks with Pinot Noir Sauce

Now that I'm caught up ... two Friday dinners in a row! This is what we had this last weekend. Since the chicken friand was rather rich, we decided to make something from the "healthy meals" column. The recipe we used was Mark Bittman's Roasted Salmon Steaks with Pinot Noir Sauce. As per his minimalist cooking ideal, the recipe and sauce are simple, though the sauce may take a little longer to come together than the 20-25 minutes indicated on the recipe -- it took me a good 40 minutes to get it reduced enough.

I accompanied my salmon with Cuban black beans -- the canned sort from Trader Joe's. It was a last-minute decision! I garnished the plate with some thinly sliced Fuji apple, which is what I had for dessert.

Salmon is salmon no matter how much you fancy it up, so most methods of preparation, such as this one, relies on the sauce for definition. I am pleased to report that Trix and I both liked the sauce very much -- we feel lucky to have 'discovered' two yummy, easy-to-make sauces two weeks in a row. It's a sweet sauce (particularly as I forgot to season mine with salt and pepper), which I normally don't care for, but it works really well with the salmon. I'm looking forward to trying it on other meats and fish as well.

Trix was more prepared than I was, and had sauteed mushrooms and spinach as sides. Her sauce was also 'redder' than mine -- I probably reduced mine for longer, deepening the color, or maybe the cast iron pan I used darkened the sugar faster.

Neither of us had ever melted sugar without the aid of a liquid before. It works surprisingly well.

I used the cheapest pinot noir I could find. I'm not a wine drinker, and especially if it's just going to be cooked, I figure it doesn't need to be costly (Bittman himself says that the wine used in this need not be expensive). I used Stonehenge, which was $5.99 at Trader Joe's. I normally buy their Charles Shaw wine to cook with, but they don't make pinot noir. I can still taste welcome notes of fruitiness in the sauce despite the inexpensive wine, and that's good enough for me.

Roasted Salmon Steaks with Pinot Noir Sauce

From Mark Bittman's recipe, found here

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups pinot noir
  • 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 4 salmon steaks, each about 1/2 pound
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably nonstick and with rounded sides, and turn heat to medium. Cook without stirring (just shake the pan occasionally to redistribute sugar) until sugar liquefies and begins to turn brown, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and carefully add wine. Turn heat to high, and cook, stirring, until caramel dissolves again. Add rosemary sprig, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy and reduced to just over 1/2 cup, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. As liquid reduces, heat a nonstick skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper, then place in pan and immediately transfer to oven. Cook 3 minutes, then turn salmon and cook another 3 minutes. Remove salmon when medium-rare or thereabouts (or cook another minute or two if you like it more done), and keep warm.
  3. When sauce is reduced, stir in balsamic vinegar and butter and turn heat to medium-low. Cook until butter melts. Season with salt and pepper, and remove rosemary sprig. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve over salmon, garnished with chopped rosemary.

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