By Dennis Linden
Living in the Pacific Northwest, where trading salmon recipes is considered a contact sport, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this altogether unique preparation of my favorite fish from the desk of Sam Martinez in Melissa’s Customer Service & Sales Department. The key to cooking any fish properly is simplicity. Sam’s short, yet distinctly-flavored, ingredient list reflects such an approach. His marinade/poaching liquid of fresh squeezed oranges, sweetened with Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup, seasoned with garlic and citrus zest, then steeped in lemon grass, adds a unique mix of flavors to the fish. Even with such a group of seemingly strong ingredients, this marinade manages to stay subtle enough to play a complimentary supporting role to that iconic taste of fresh salmon, which should always take top billing on the plate.
“The recipe was passed on to me by an old buddy several years ago and I've enjoyed making it ever since,” Sam explained. “Salmon is a favorite because there are so many ways of cooking it. In the summer I like grilling the fish on the barbeque; however, when colder days set in and it’s time to move indoors, this recipe is the one I generally like to prepare.”
A couple of tips for cooking salmon :
- Use high quality, sustainably caught salmon – this DOES NOT include Atlantic Farm-Raised fish. This is a recipe feature, so I will stay off the environmental soapbox, except to say that farm-raised salmon have been proven to pollute the oceans and endanger wild salmon populations. We are what we eat.
- After marinating in refrigeration, bring the salmon back to room temperature before cooking. The idea is that it will cook better, meaning the heat will be distributed more evenly, if it's closer to room temperature than to refrigerator temperature. This is especially true with high heat cooking, like sautéing or searing.
- Handle fish as little as possible; flipping a filet to cook both sides in not necessary, like a burger. Note that this recipe employs the same pan for both the stovetop and oven stages of prep. This was not to save on dishwashing duties, but rather to leave the fish alone!
- Always let any fish finish cooking the final 5 minutes off heat; that means removing from flame or turning off oven BEFORE the fish even looks done. Let time, not heat, do the rest in order to insure a moist, rather than dry, textured fish.
Another nice touch in Sam’s marinade is the use of Lemon Grass. Just know that Lemon Grass has a very delicate flavor. To release this fresh ingredient’s fullest strength, be sure to cut the stalk to a very fine mince. These fine bits will taint the orange juice marinade more efficiently as well as continue to impart its essence during the oven time. Lemon grass is also a little tough, so the fine mince will help its texture to breakdown during the cooking process.
Sam Martinez has been with Melissa’s for 18 years in our Consumer Customer Service / Sales Department.
“While this department may be just one small part of the company's structure, it plays a major role in making Melissa's better through our direct contact with consumers and reacting to their feedback,” said Sam, continuing. “From the mail order department, I have the privilege to assist retail consumers in anything from product concerns to directing them to where they can purchase Melissa's products.” Sam is also involved in building the company’s representation with the independent retailers in the San Diego area.
When not at his desk, Sam enjoys occasional hikes near his home on the many trails of the Bonita Canyon Reserve, a protected parkland that serves as the watershed to the estuary waters behind Newport Beach, California. Both he and his wife Yessenia are avid movie watchers and proud parents of young Isaac. This is Sam’s second very tasty submission to this feature, which calls for an upgrade in title. So, thank you CHEF Sam!
Salmon Poached in OJ & Lemon Grass
4 Salmon Fillets, sustainably caught
2 cups Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
½ cup of Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup
1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Orange Zest
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
4 inches Lemon Grass
stalk, finely minced
For the marinade: combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and blend thoroughly.
Rinse the fillets, pat-dry with paper towel, place them in a shallow baking dish and cover completely with marinade, then marinate for at least 2 hours in refrigerator.
Remove fillets from marinade, sear in a lightly oiled frying pan, skin-side-up, for 3 minutes.
Remove sauté pan from flame, drizzle marinade over the fillets and into the pan until fish is sitting in the liquid, cover and place pan in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 18 minutes. Then turn off the oven, but leave pan of fillets to rest there for another 5 minutes.
Serve salmon garnished with orange rounds, accompanied with steamed broccolini or asparagus on a preferred steamed rice. Drizzle the remaining marinade from the pan over all components of the dish.