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.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele July 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I think my husband will die and go to heaven after eating this. Two of his favorite things: salmon and jalapeno. Especially jalapeno. He wants it on EVERYTHING. I’ll try this out next week!


WackyMummy July 21, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I love your anecdotes. They really add spice! ;)

I have to admit to a superior heat palate myself; so many wusses can’t take the heat. Oh well. I keep my bottle of chili sauce handy just for myself. I once ordered extra hot curry that made people’s eyes water just being in the room. (Maybe there’s something wrong with me…. ???)


Corinne July 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I just showed Lucas this post, and he goes “salmon and jalapeños? huh” and he reminded me that I don’t care for salmon… but then I told him that if it had enough jalapeños, maybe. Just maybe.
And I don’t know why I needed to share that with you.
But maybe I’ll try it :)
(I say that about all of your recipes, seriously, and will try one at some point. I’m on a cooking strike right now though…)


Jen July 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm

My mouth watered the minute I saw the picture…..If only everyone here liked it hot!!!


C @ Kid Things July 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Spice trickery = blatant assholery, I definitely agree. Because unlike you and yours, I can not stand spice of any kind. Black pepper is even too much for me. I’m a wuss, I know, it’s OK if you call me that. In fact, my mouth is on fire just looking at that picture.


Jennifer July 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

We are smug, but he was just an ass. And you are right, water does nothing. You need milk or sugar, but I’m sure you already knew that. Oh, and soft drink will make it worse.

David would LOVE this.


Cheryl @ mommypants July 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm

That sounds delish! Is this something we could do on the grill?

Btw, I totally agree w/ you on the assholery of spice tricksters!


Magic of Spice July 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Wonderful salmon dish :)


Bryan July 22, 2010 at 2:16 am

Love the stories, spicy “jokes” like that aren’t very funny at all… Mine involves an habanero. The dish looks great by the way, I do love a little spice action


The Curious Cat July 22, 2010 at 4:24 am

Love the stories! So funny -you always tell them in such an amusing way! Such talent! And the dish looks yum too – but yeah maybe I’d go with fewer jalapenos…xxx


Maria July 22, 2010 at 4:52 am

I like some hot…not all and definitely not too much.

You are a class act, letting people know up front that this 3 jalapenos, to the untraind digestive system, can make lace out of your insides…

Love it and will DEFINITELY be trying it when we return from DC.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon July 22, 2010 at 5:33 am

The Mistah has a freakish love of any kind of sauce. Seriously, the man tries to put sauce on everything…it drives me mad. This dish is screaming his name.


Barbara July 22, 2010 at 5:47 am

The jokesters in our lives really are not always funny. And we all have them, unfortunately. There is a little touch of mean in them. (My daughter had a date years ago with a guy who pinched her arm just a leetle bit to hard and that was the end of him. This is akin to that.)
And yes, I am one of those who took a look at your photo and freaked out. My tummy is NOT cast iron. But I will trust you and reduce the peppers accordingly.


Erica@PinesLakeRedhead July 22, 2010 at 5:49 am

Since you made this, I can safely assume that the jalepenos don’t over power the salmon? What am I talking about? I don’t even eat fish! But I will share this with the men in my house. All three of them love things spicey and have cast iron stomachs. I have to steer clear though. Ever since my last pregnancy, my tastebuds have turned wimpy.


Nicki July 22, 2010 at 5:55 am

Always looking for a new salmon recipe. I also happen to love jalapeños so…YUM!


Phoo-d July 22, 2010 at 7:21 am

Ooh, I was thinking about making salmon this week and this sounds like an awesome preparation! Love ponzu sauce and jalapeños.


Evenshine July 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

(Licking computer screen)

I have been craving spicy stuff all through this pregnancy. This looks DIVINE.


Justine July 22, 2010 at 12:15 pm

So many things to say here:
1. You are SO quotable. This? “In short: spice trickery = blatant assholery. ” An instant classic. And this? “Castrated peppers make me cranky.” Hilarious. And so true.
2. I cannot get enough of the background stories you provide for your recipes
3. Salmon is my favorite fish (because I’m so original like that)
4. I love love love Ponzu sauce (which makes this recipe a home run)
5. It is also so easy it makes me weep with pleasure because I love express dinners on weeknights that taste like a million bucks but takes five minutes to prepare.

Thank you so much for this!


ck July 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Avocado mash? You should’ve made testicle mash out of him for pulling that sh*t.


Erin July 22, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I wish I could handle spice like you can! I am a huge wuss, and have thankfully never had to deal with any spice trickery. I like ponzu sauce & salmon, though, so I’ll give you credit for that part of the recipe!


Stacia July 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

I am reminded of the jalapeno-eating contest I initiated with my husband’s best friend on one of our first dates. It was a double-date. I wanted to impress my husband’s friend, thereby winning his approval and impressing my husband all the more. Let’s just say, I won. But the number of beers I had to drink to earn that victory? Means the next morning I was feelin’ like a loser.


Kelly July 22, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Into my Handbook for Growing Up Girl, I shall create a whole passage on how to beat the ass of any guy who does that to my daughter (or son for that matter). What a supreme asshole!


camilla July 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Not a salmon lover, however I could go the jalapeno sauce any day….. as for your date, what a little fucker!


Kristina Churchill July 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Yum, will have to try this! The hubby loves the spicy stuff.

Love your blog!
Stopped by from SITS, come by my blog if you have a chance.


Amber July 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm

If my kids could handle the heat, I’d add spice to everything. But for some reason their immature taste buds do not enjoy jalapenos. Weird.

: )


theUngourmet July 23, 2010 at 12:01 am

You just really crack me up sometimes! This is one of those times. What a turd that guy was tricking you with the wasabi. I love wasabi and that mind blowing, tear inducing insanity that goes with every schmear of it. So good! Jalapenos are a completely different kind of heat for me. They linger. But I’m up for this recipe for sure. It looks fabulous.


Katie@Cozydelicious July 23, 2010 at 7:35 am

This look sso yummy… flavorful, simple, perfect! In my house, the hotter the better so I’m sure this will go over well.


Jane July 23, 2010 at 9:04 am

Ok. Call me a wuss. But my husband is not. What I love about this recipe is that I can easily mix a batch of the sauce, jalapenos on the side and voila! Everyone is happy. You are shear genius, KW! (And I’m rolling up my sleeves, ready to take on Mr. Spice Trickery. Let me at ‘im!)


Emily July 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm

These sound so good and summery!


Meagan Francis July 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Oh my gosh…I could never eat even a single jalapeno. BUT, my husband would love this. Maybe we could make them both ways and see who’s happier in the end :)


Melissa July 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Evil spice tricksters. Isn’t there a fable about that? One where they end up at the bottom of the river? There really should be.


Velva July 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Cheers to adding spice to your dishes and life too. I tried my hand at growing hot peppers this year. The only pepper to survive the deer in my yard is a couple of thai pepper bushes. The habaneros and the jalapenos were eaten by the neighborhood deer. I hope it burned twice!

I love your posts. What a way with words! I am learning new words like “asshat” and “toolbox”-I look forwarding to using them to describe some folks that I have been left wordless when coming up with a description that fits. Much appreciated. :-)


Privilege of Parenting July 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

This post reminded me of the first sushi with my dad back in Chicago when he took the full dab of wasabi and popped it in his mouth thinking it an appetizer. At least no one tried to trick him, nor that time in the dark 70’s fondue restaurant when he dipped a cracker into the goop in the burner.

As for jalapenos, I recently had some sushi with truffle oil and jalapenos and I thought they would overpower the fish, but they were sliced so razor thin that it was perfect. Not that I don’t like full-on heat, but balance of flavor and the thinness of the pepper reminded me of the guys in “Good Fellas” cooking in prison and cutting their garlic with a razor.


grace July 24, 2010 at 2:21 am

i never suspected that my insatiable appetite for fiery flavors and the fact that i walk like a robot were connected, but now i know that i must have leaden bowels too. :)


Paula July 24, 2010 at 7:35 pm

The salmon sounds quite interesting. I would probably pick the peppers off but love the bite left behind. I never thought about it before but you are right. Nearly every body has a “hot and spicy” story.


diane and todd July 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm

jalapenos fear not! bring on the heat, baby! Love the recipe, esp with the salmon.
Lol, your stories are so hilarious!


Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla July 25, 2010 at 1:08 am

Oh my gosh, the story about the wasabi goes down in the annals of “crappy dates” of all time – along with me dating a guy who showed up in a Truly Nolan bug.

I love heat in a meal. I think those jalopenos would be a perfect kick for otherwise bland fish, though I’m more of a pepperoncini girl.


Chiara July 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hahaha… the hot food trickery stories were both hilarious. I do happen to love spicy food though, so when I looked at your picture it made me long for a bunch of sliced jalapenos to be eaten, of course, with a spoon. Or on top of your lovely salmon, which might be a better idea =)


M @ Betty Crapper July 26, 2010 at 8:16 am

food can never be hot enough for me. I love spicy food and other than my sister and father have never found anyone who can tolerate spicy food quite like me. I don’t break out in a sweat when eating stuff made with habaneros. I barely even feel a tingle. I do always wear gloves when handling peppers because I realized my eyes are not as insensitive as my mouth and stomach. :)


Contemporary Troubadour July 26, 2010 at 9:39 am

It is wrong that my mouth is watering for something so deliciously spicy and it’s going to be hot as spiteful spice experiences here today.

I do have salmon on the menu tonight, though.


Allison @ Alli 'n Son July 26, 2010 at 12:20 pm

My hubby would LOVE this recipe. Anything seared and spicy is right up his alley.


Tiffany July 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

What meanies—the uncle and the date!! I love jalapenos…although every time I think of them I think back to my days as a waitress when this old woman used to order “wop-ah-leynos” and it cracked me up!


Sophie July 27, 2010 at 2:23 am

A lovely salmon dish!! i love all of the flavours you have used in here!

MMMMMMMMMMM,…fab food!

Many greetings from Brussels, Belgium!


Phoo-d July 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

So we made this for dinner tonight and it was awesome! Loved the ponzu sauce and the jalapeños on top. Quick, easy, and delicious!


Justine August 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Finally made this today – Oh my word. So easy, so delicious. But man, the jalapenos we got were H.O.T. Still devoured my meal and cleaned my plate though.


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