Weekly Winner: Vietnamese Salmon – Caramelized Nuggets of Goodness

Try as I might I just could not come up with a catchy alliterative headline for this dish. But regardless, this was definitely the surprise hit of the week.

I knew we would like it – I’m not sure there’s a salmon dish that we wouldn’t like.  But this was surprisingly luscious.  There’s a serious sweetness in the caramel sauce which glazes the naturally rich salmon…. but all this is cut with the fresh carrot slaw.  The recipe called for the salmon to be served on the carrots; however that caramel sauce was seriously asking for some rice to sop it all up, so I called an audible and made rice.  I’m crazy and bold like that sometimes.

This recipe comes from a recent issue of Fine Cooking.  It’s quick, it’s easy…. and it was the first time I got to play around with making a real caramel.  A tremendous success all around.

Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated or julienned (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. canola oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

Procedure:

Heat the sugar in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, tilting the pan occasionally to help the sugar melt evenly, until dark amber (like maple syrup), about 3 minutes. (If your pan is dark, test the color by dribbling some on a white plate.) Remove from the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water; it will steam and bubble. Put the skillet over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. of the lime juice and the fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick enough for a spoon to leave a trail in the skillet, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, cilantro, and the remaining 2 Tbs. lime juice. Season to taste with more lime juice and salt.

Heat the oil in a wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the caramel sauce and 3/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and toss gently to coat. Distribute the fish in a single layer and simmer vigorously, stirring once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve with the carrots.

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