Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Salmon with miso and black sesame seeds

This is a riff on my salmon with wasabi peas , in which the fish is slathered with a combination of white miso, ginger juice and mayonnaise, which is in turn topped with ground wasabi peas.  This is the dish that Maya's friends always request when they come to dinner.    Here, dark barley miso gives the fish a much richer flavor, and the black sesame adds crunch, flavor and a dramatic appearance.  I would say, a bit reluctantly, that I prefer this to the old version.  It is easy to double or halve, but 2 pounds of fish will serve 4 very generously, with there likely being some left over for lunch:
Salmon with miso and black sesame seeds:

  • 2 pounds salmon fillet
  • Salt
  • 1 generous tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 scant tablespoon dark red barley miso
  • Togarishi (Japanese pepper and spice mixture) or cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds (I find that they work better if they are not already roasted)
  • oil for greasing the baking pan

  1. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and set aside, ideally for an hour to come close to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Oil a bake and serve dish that will hold the salmon snugly, and put the salmon fillet in it.  (You may also like the dish with foil which will make it much easier to clean.
  4. Combine the barley and the mayonnaise in a small dish.  The quantities are approximately, and add more mayo if you want to make it easier to spread.  Add about 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon togarishi if you have, otherwise a generous  pinch of cayenne.  Spread it over the fish.  If it doesn't cover it, make more of the miso mayo mixture. You can use a rubber spatula for spreading, but it works much better if you use your fingers.
  5. Sprinkle the fish generously with the sesame seeds so that they make a thick coating.
  6. Put the fish in the oven and bake 15 minutes (a bit less if it is thin, a bit more if it is thick or very cold).
  7. Remove and serve hot or room temperature.

What kind of salmon?  Farmed salmon works fine here and is a lot cheaper, but it is most wonderful with wild salmon.  Because it is leaner and thinner, I find the wild salmon tends to cook faster.  You could also make this with arctic char. 

How long do I cook it?  For me, less is more but some folks like their salmon nuked.  I tend to like it medium and 15 minutes would be more than enough especially since it will continue to cook if you let it rest and come to room temperature.  A lot about the cooking time depends on the thickness and temperature of your fish, the size of the piece, and the temperature of your oven.  If you test it in the center and there is some slight resistance, it is medium, and if it flakes easily, it is well done.

Variations:  If you are cooking more than one piece of salmon, try one this way and one topped with wasabi peas.  You can also use the white miso and mayonnaise spread with a topping of roasted white sesame seeds.  One particularly attractive way of doing it is to use a large fillet, and top half (the long way) with the black sesame seed and the other half with wasabi peas or white sesame seeds.  It is easiest to do this if you work with one half of the fillet at a time and keep the other covered with wax paper.