Salmon South by Southwest
Southwestern tastes — and heat — spark salmon fillets served with an unusual collection of side dishes. The center of each plate holds a tamale filled with sweet potato and white bean filling. Vidalia onions flavored with vanilla and cooked until mahogany brown accompany the dish, as does puffed fried pasta, pepper glaze, and cilantro oil. The salmon fillets are coated with a spicy mixture before being sautéed until brown.
- White Bean Filling
- White Beans - 2 cups, rinsed and picked over
- Onion - 1 medium, peeled and diced
- Poblano - 1, seeded and diced
- Cumin Seed - 2 tablespoons, roasted
- Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Black Pepper - 1 teaspoon
- Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Cilantro - 1⁄2 bunch (save half for garnish)
- Corn Husk - 7 to 8, soaked in water
- Sweet potatoes - 5 to 6 medium
- Cornmeal or Masa Harina - 1⁄2 cup
- Pecans - 1⁄2 cup, roasted
- Garlic Cloves - 10, peeled and chopped
- Salt - 2 teaspoons
- Black Pepper - 1 teaspoon
- Egg - 1
- Cilantro Oil
- Garlic Cloves - 2, peeled
- Cilantro Leaves - 1⁄4 cup
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Olive Oil - 3⁄4 cup
- Fried Chili Pepper Pasta
- Chili Pepper Pasta - 1⁄4 pound
- Vegetable Oil - 2 cups, for deep-frying
- Pepper Glaze
- Water - 1 quart
- Sugar - 2 cups
- Cinnamon Stick - 1
- Whole Cloves - 1⁄2 teaspoon
- Ground Cardamom - 1 teaspoon
- Salt - 1⁄2 teaspoon
- Lavender - 1 teaspoon, diced (optional)
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- Chipotle Pepper - 1 small, seeded and minced
- Jalapeño Pepper - 1 small, seeded and minced
- Fresh Blackberries - 1⁄2 pint
- Vanilla Vidalia Onions
- Canola oil - 1⁄2 cup
- Vidalia Onions - 6 medium, peeled and sliced 1⁄4-inch thick or less
- Vanilla bean - 1⁄2
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rice or Cake Flour - 1 cup
- Cornmeal - 1⁄2 cup
- Salmon fillets - 6, 6-ounce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Egg - 2, lightly beaten
- Canola oil - 1⁄4 cup
- Ground Cardamom - 1⁄2 teaspoon
- Ground Coriander - 1⁄2 teaspoon
- Ground ginger - 1⁄2 teaspoon
- Fresh Cilantro - 1⁄4 cup
- Red Bell Pepper - 1, seeded and thinly sliced
- Cilantro Infused Oil - 3⁄4 cup
To prepare the white bean filling: In a large heavy pot soak the beans in cold water to cover by at least 3 inches for not less than 4 hours or overnight. Drain the beans in a colander, rinse, and return to the cooking pot with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans for 20 minutes. Add the onion, poblano, cumin, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender and the water is absorbed. Add the olive oil and half of the cilantro. Drain the beans in a colander. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To make the tamales: Place the corn husks in a large bowl with cold water to cover. Let soak about 2 hours or until soft. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast in a 400 F oven for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the potatoes slightly until they can be handled, and scoop out flesh. In a rice mill or food processor puree the sweet potato until smooth. Add the cornmeal, pecans, garlic, salt, pepper, and egg to the potatoes and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Tear 8 strips 1⁄6-inch wide from 1 or 2 of the husks for tying the tamales. Divide the sweet potatoes evenly among the 6 remaining husks, and spread in the center, leaving 1 inch at each end uncovered. Repeat this procedure for the white bean filling, mounding a heaping tablespoon on top of the sweet potato filling. Roll the corn husks so that the dough is completely enclosed. Twist and tie each end with the reserved strips. Place the tamales in a small roasting pan and bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The tamales are done when the filling comes away easily from the husk. Allow the tamales to cool slightly before serving.
To make the cilantro oil: In a blender or food processor combine the garlic, cilantro, and salt and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a squeeze bottle.
To make the fried pasta: In a large saucepan or deep-fryer heat the oil to 350 F or until a noodle dropped in the oil puffs and comes to the surface. Add the chili pepper pasta to the oil in small batches and fry until completely browned, about 15 seconds. Remove the noodles from the oil with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels.
To make the pepper glaze: In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, salt, lavender, orange juice, orange zest, and peppers, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 1 hour or until a syrupy consistency has been achieved, stirring from time to time. Strain the glaze through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and discard the solids.
To make the Vidalia onions: In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the canola oil over high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until the onions begin to brown. At this point reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are well browned and have taken on a shiny mahogany color. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with the tip of a paring knife and scrape the seeds from half of the bean only into the onions. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Keep warm over very low heat or remove from the heat and rewarm when needed.
To prepare the salmon: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Set aside 1⁄2 cup of the rice or cake flour. In a medium mixing bowl combine the remaining 1⁄2 cup of rice or cake flour, cornmeal, cardamom, coriander, and ginger. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Dredge in the plain flour, then in the eggs, and finally in the seasoned flour mixture. Shake off any excess. In a large sauté pan or skillet heat the canola oil over medium-high heat and cook the fillets on each side for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 6 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.
To serve: Place one tamale in the center of each dinner plate. Place one-sixth of the onions around the tamale and one salmon fillet on top of the tamale. Stir the berries into the pepper glaze and pour around the plate. Garnish with a handful of fried chili pepper pasta, a few sprigs of the cilantro leaves, and some red pepper slices. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of cilantro oil. Repeat with the remaining plates.