Crispy Salmon in Fraiche Sauce with Spinach
I love the flesh color, the high oil content, the delicate taste and texture of Alaskan King Salmon. The cost of the wild fish is high right now since the season has just begun. Two weeks ago this fantastic salmon cost a whopping $29.99 per pound at Sanders Fish Market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Then I noticed that Harbor Fish in Portland, Maine offered the Copper River King as a Memorial Day Week-end special at $20.00 per pound. Not a bad price, relatively speaking, so I splurged and prepared a special spring dinner: crispy salmon with a sauce made of butter, white wine, lemon and creme fraiche.
The sauce was inspired by a Pierre Troisgros classic that includes fish fumet, but the sauce is delicious and much faster to prepare without the splash of fish stock. Troisgros also used sorrel in his sauce. This lemony green is lovely with salmon, but if, like me, your sorrel supplier is nowhere in site, you can substitute baby spinach. Spinach is everywhere.
Valerie, my darling guinea pig, is not enamored with the smell of sizzling salmon and she had never eaten crisped salmon skin before I presented it to her–so to see her lapping up the sauce and enjoying the crackling skin gave me a thrill. The recipe I present to you does not require that you use Alaskan King Salmon. A responsibly raised, antibiotic free Scottish Salmon will do. In fact, some people prefer the taste of farmed salmon. Here are a few important tips to remember when making this dish:
1. Crispy skin is easy to create if you have an extemely sharp knife and are willing to score the skin of your fish. Remember to create parrallel and superficial slashes in your skin. Then your seasoning will really penetrate your fish and the fish skin will not curl. Be very careful not to cut too deeply into the delicate flesh!
2 .Make sure you use a lightly oiled nonstick pan and get the pan smoking hot before you add your fish, skin side-down. Once the fish is in the pan, turn the heat down to medium and don’t touch the fish until three-quarters of the fish has turned white. Then gently flip the fish onto the fleshy side and let it cook for another minute or so. Refrain from overcooking your fish.
3. While the fish is resting, create your sauce. If you let most of the wine evaporate and allow the sauce to thicken slightly it will be luxurious.
4. Creme fraiche is richer, fatter, more buttery tasting than sour cream. It also will not curdle when you raise the heat.
5. Most experts agree that a refreshing Sancerre is the perfect wine for salmon. Use some in the sauce and then serve it with your meal.