Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu

July 21, 2010

Okay, do NOT freak out at the number of jalapeno peppers pictured in this photo. Jalapenos are add-on-as-desired items in this recipe. Now here at Chez T., we happen to have cast-iron tongues and bowels of lead, so we like things incendiary. But believe me, this fish will be delicious even with a little dab of jalapeno (or even the amount the original recipe calls for–I tripled the pepper ratio). Use what you like. I won’t be there to call you a wuss, so adorn accordingly.

Just about everyone has a memorable spice experience in their past, but my father had an experience that was downright spiteful. Daddy, a Chicago native, once visited Mama’s relatives in Texas, and when presented with a bowl of sliced jalapeno peppers, Mama’s uncle told him, “Eat a forkful of these, son.  They’re sweet little gems like you’ve never had in your life.”

Naturally, Daddy took the bait. He learned a couple of lessons that day: 1) Texans are smug, secretive little bastards and 2) Water does ZERO to take away jalapeno sting.

I’d have added to that list of lessons: 3) John William (Mama’s uncle) is an asshat who deserves a hard, fast boot to the backside. But I’m a vindictive creature.

Once, in college, a date took me out for sushi, which I’d only tried once (as in, a bite of one piece and then I, freaked out by the novelty,  ordered tempura). Nervously, I let him order for us and watched him as he poured sake, separated chopsticks, fiddled with the saucers of ginger and soy. He pointed to a small dish of green paste and said, “This is mashed avocado. It’s awesome on sushi–you have to try it.”

I happen to love avocado. I also happen to be Ignoramus Maximus, because I dunked that first piece of  sushi into the “avocado mash” with abandon.

I’d love to tell you that I made a beautiful pair of earrings out of that dude’s testicles, but I was timid in college. I wiped the tears from my eyes, humiliated, and pretended to laugh. I even let that toolbox take me to a movie after dinner. But that was our first and last date.

In short: spice trickery = blatant assholery.  I promise to always tell you up-front if a dish brings the heat. Depending on the pungency of your jalapenos, this dish can tingle or it can make flames shoot of your eyelids, so do a taste-test first, okay? For some reason, this year’s jalapenos pack a good punch in my neck of the woods, which makes me happy. Last year’s peppers were pansy-ass mild and a thorough disappointment. Castrated peppers make me cranky.

Bonus for Spice-Phobes: Ponzu sauce is delicious even without  jalapeno, so if you fear the spice, leave it out. It’ll still taste quite lovely.

Seared Salmon with Jalapeno Ponzu
serves 4
from Cooking Light Magazine

1/4 cup less-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 large jalapeno pepper, cut crosswise into thin slices (or 3, if you’re a freak like me)

Combine first 4 ingredients together in a small bowl; mix well.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, skin side down; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Arrange 1 fillet on each plate. Top evenly with jalapeno slices. Drizze about 2 tablespoons of the ponzu sauce over each serving. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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