Friday, January 28, 2011

0 Recipe #237: Salmon Tikka Masala

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I created this recipe because I was in search of a new & exciting way to prepare salmon, versus falling back on the usual & more predictable choices like soy-mustard marinades and teriyaki-style, pineapple-honey-ginger glazes. It's nice to change things up every once in a while!

I've made this dish for several different people & all of them have told me that they really liked it, even including some of the ones who've said that they aren't really into Indian food. :)

Salmon Tikka Masala

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled & finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, peeled & finely minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shallots, peeled & finely minced (2 medium-sized shallots)
1/8 tsp. red chili powder (Indian-style, not Mexican!)
2 tsp. amchur (mango powder) (if unavailable, substitute about 2 Tbsp. lemon juice)
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. nonfat, plain Greek yoghurt
2 tsp. tomato paste (optional)
10-12 fresh curry leaves, julienned
4 tsp. saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 c. warmed (but not boiling!) nonfat/skim milk for 10 minutes
1 lb. salmon fillet, cleaned, washed off, & patted dry (Leave bottom skin on fish!)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. cilantro or chives (for garnish) (1/2 Tbsp. per person)

Directions: The following steps can done up to a day in advance: Using a medium-sized mortar & pestle, mash together ginger, garlic, & salt until pulverized. Add shallots & repeat process. Next, mix in red chili powder, amchur, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cumin, & black pepper until combined into a thick, uniform paste. Transfer contents into a large mixing bowl. Fold in yoghurt, tomato paste (if using), & the saffron threads that've been soaked in warm milk. Whisk together until well combined. Place salmon into a resealable Ziploc/plastic bag & then pour contents of mixing bowl into bag & tightly seal. Gently massage yoghurt-spice mixture into fish from outside of bag, then place bag into refrigerator, & allow salmon to marinate overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours before grilling.

Next, cook the salmon: About 10-15 minutes before cooking, remove the salmon from the refrigerator & set it aside, so that it can reach room temperature before it's cooked, which ensures even heat distribution during cooking. Heat oil in a large (11"), square, nonstick grill pan with a ridged/grooved bottom. When oil is hot, place whole fillet onto grill pan.  (Leave fish whole as it's easier to maneuver in the pan when it's a single, large piece.) Pour some of the marinade on top of fish, using a heat-proof pastry brush for even distribution; as fish cooks, continue to coat fish with remaining marinade.

For 1"-thick fillet, grill for about 4-5 minutes per side on medium heat. (Salmon generally requires 4-6 minutes total grilling time per 1/2 inch of thickness, i.e., 2-3 minutes per side. If fillets are greater than 1"-thick, cook them 5 minutes per side over direct heat & then remove them from the heat, & place on a cool burner to allow them to finish cooking. Fish will continue to cook in the pan even after it's been removed from the heat source, just at a lower intensity, which is the desired goal. This allows a thicker fish to cook all the way through without overcooking.)

To test for doneness, place a knife into the flesh of the salmon & pry it open to see how pink the flesh is on the inside. (I personally like mine to be a medium pink color; tender, but not too fleshy.) When the salmon flesh flakes with a knife or fork, it's done. Be sure to remove the salmon just as it reaches the flaking point, or it will begin to dry and toughen. Perfectly done salmon is moist, tender, & flaky. When fish is done, cut into 4 equal pieces, transfer to plates, & serve with vegetables, (saffron) rice, & the chutney of your choice.

Yield: 4 (4 oz.) servings.

Chef's Notes: If you're lucky enough to have access to an outdoor grill, use that instead of the grill pan, & just skip the olive oil. (The yoghurt is moist enough for the outdoor grill, but the grill pan, even a nonstick one, needs a bit of extra help to keep the fish from sticking to it.) For outdoor grilling, set a timer to help you to keep tabs on the fish (!) & then check it to see whether it needs a few more minutes. After the initial 8-10 minutes of grilling, it's probably a good idea to stand near the grill & then watch & wait, checking the salmon each time with your knife. That way, you're less likely to overcook it from neglect or forgetfulness, while you're preparing the other dishes for dinner. :)

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