Eating healthy is not just salads and egg white omelettes, although sometimes I think about what I eat and salad and egg whites resurface often. However, you can have restaurant or “chef-inspired” dishes on a regular basis with a little fine-tuning and adjustments. In this case, I did not have to change anything in the recipe for once.
I first came across this recipe when I was in Paris at Market (a Jean-Georges Restaurant) that my friend dragged me to. At the time I wanted to experience real French cuisine…duck confit, sole a la meunière, beef Bourgogne not some Asian-French fusion. (You can see why I joined Weight Watchers upon my immediate return from Europe.) I also did not realize it was a Jean-Georges restaurant until after the meal. In the end, it was the best meal I had in Paris even though I felt odd sitting there with chopsticks in hand while dining on the Champs-Élysées.
This recipe is perfect for impressing people (“you cured it yourself?!”) and can be served as an appetizer with crackers or blinis or as a first course. It can also be a light and sophisticated lunch for one while leaning over the kitchen sink.
Soy-Cured Salmon, Asian Pear, and Cilantro Crème Fraîche
Yield = 4 servings
1 serving = 7 Points Plus
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20.5 hours (includes 20-hr marinating period)
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- One 2-inch piece fresh young ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 fresh green Thai chile, chopped (substituted jalapeño)
- One 9-ounce salmon fillet, skinned, trimmed, and halved lengthwise
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- 2 scallions, white parts only, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup sliced fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest, plus more for garnish
- ¼ teaspoon minced fresh green Thai chile (substituted jalapeño)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup diced Asian pear (used Bartlett pear)
To start roughly chop the cilantro, ginger, and chile. I used jalapeno because there were no Thai chiles at the store. You can use fresno chiles, serrano chiles, or whatever you like. Chuck it all in your food processor and add 1 cup of soy sauce, preferably light sodium, and give it a whirl. It doesn’t have to be finely puréed, it should be a little chunky.
Place your salmon fillets into the marinade and make sure they are completely submerged. I like to put an upside down plate on top just to make sure it has a little weight. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight for a total of 20 hours. Do not marinate it longer than that so it does not over-cure.
After 20 hours take the salmon out of the marinade and give it a rinse. Pat the salmon dry and set it aside. Don’t be off-put by the dark color, it’s just the soy sauce penetrating the flesh of the salmon. When you slice it, you’ll reveal the beautiful orange color of the sockeye.
Let’s have ourselves a little lesson on curing. Originally curing was used as a way to preserve food; it can take form as salting, drying, smoking, or pickling. Salt draws out the moisture which prevents the growth of microorganisms. In this case if you cure the salmon for too long, the soy sauce (i.e. salt) will draw too much of the moisture out of the fish and will cause it to be dry and salty. Therefore do not marinade the fish more than 20 hours.
Next combine the crème fraîche, scallions, cilantro, chile, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and I throw in a little pinch of white pepper. Set aside.
Thinly slice the salmon in about 1/4″ slices. A sharp knife is a must in this situation, preferably a sharp slicer.
To serve, spoon some of the cilantro crème fraîche on the bottom of a plate. Shingle the sliced salmon on top of the sauce and then garnish with a brunoise of pear. (Brunoise is a fancy term meaning very tiny dice (exactly 1/8″ x 1/8″ x 1/8″).
The picture above showcases the beautiful and impressive presentation. I actually served it this way to my family for a nice, light appetizer before our Sunday dinner. However, when I made it for myself I bulked it up into a meal with the addition of cucumbers and extra pear. May not be as classy and a little on the messy side but just as tasty.