Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Salmon in Luxurious Green Sesame Pipian

Oh, Rick Bayless, can you do no wrong? In addition to being consistently delicious, my favorite thing about recipes from Rick Bayless is how they make me rethink what Mexican food is, perpetually discovering new and delicious flavor combinations as well as making uncovering new ways to use favorite ingredients. I'll confess I'm no master seafood chef, but this has to be the most delicious dish I've ever made with salmon, with the added bonus of being really easy and quick to prepare. The combination of the creamy tahini and spicy tomatillo salsa is unexpectedly delicious, perfectly contrasted by the bright and fresh flavor from the cilantro and peas. The flavor of the salmon is strong enough not to disappear in this vibrantly-flavored dish, staying irresistably moist and succulent while simmering in the sauce. Served over a bed of brown rice or other grain, this is a complete, sneakily nutritious meal that could as easily be served at a dinner party as on a busy weeknight. Any fan of Mexican food or fish would be greatly remiss if they didn't give this at least give it once chance to grace their dinner table; if you are one of that legion, go forth and try a new recipe under the wise (cookbook) tutelage of the inimitable Rick Bayless.

Salmon in Luxurious Green Sesame Pipian
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
serves 4

2 cups store-bought or homemade tomatillo salsa
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 heaping cup peas, fresh or frozen
Four 4- to 5-ounce (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total) skinless fish fillets (such as salmon, halibut, walleye, snapper or striped bass)-buy about 1 1/2 pounds if using fish steaks
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnish
About 1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. In a blender or food processor, process the salsa to a smooth purée.

2. Heat oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high. When it is quite hot, add salsa all at once. Stir as salsa reduces to consistency of tomato paste, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in broth and tahini. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon, and a little sugar. (The sugar will help balance the natural tartness of the salsa). 

4. While sauce is simmering, pour the peas into a microwaveable bowl, sprinkle on a tablespoon of the water, cover with plastic wrap and poke a couple of holes in the top. Microwave on high (100%) until the peas are hot and tender, anywhere from 1 minute from frozen peas to 4 or 5 minutes for fresh peas; discard water.

5. When the sauce has simmered for 10 minutes, nestle the fish fillets in it, completely submerging them. Continue simmering gently until the fish flakes when pressed firmly, usually 5 to 6 minutes for 1/2-inch-thick fillets. (Check it by lifting up a fillet on a metal spatula and pressing with your finger or the back of a spoon.)

6. Transfer a fish fillet to each dinner plate. Spoon a portion of the sauce over top. Strew with the peas, sesame seeds and cilantro, and you're ready for dinner.

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