Sear-Roasted Keta Salmon with Fennel-Pear Salad #AlaskaSeafood

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If you’re a regular reader of Pescetarian Journal, you likely know of my fondness for Alaska Seafood. As someone who shops regularly and relentlessly for sustainable seafood, I know it can be next to impossible, sometimes, to find out the full story of the fish behind the glass at the market. “What method was used to catch this fish? Was the fish caught from the Atlantic or Pacific ocean? Is this fish on the endangered list?” These questions often stump the most knowledgeable fishmongers at retail food stores. The seafood for my recipe, “Sear-Roasted Keta Salmon with Fennel-Pear Salad,” is made with wild Keta salmon from Alaska.
That’s why I’m excited about a recent partnership with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Now I have access to dietitians, chefs, and the latest research about sustainable seafood in Alaska, and I will share this information to you as I pursue it. I was also thrilled to receive samples of wild Keta Alaska salmon, which is pictured and featured in this post.
www.pescetarianjournal.comI wanted to pair the Keta salmon with a fresh-tasting salad. I was inspired by a particularly buxom bulb of fennel with emerald fronds (inspiration for recipes often hit me while shopping in the produce section–I’ll see a particularly beautiful vegetable and, POW!–a recipe idea hits).
www.pescetarianjournal.comThe bulk herb-and-spice section is near the produce aisle where I shop, so I thought of fennel seeds and I stopped to scoop a couple of ounces. The quiet, hint-of-licorice flavor of the fennel seeds would accentuate the sweetness of the Keta salmon, I thought. How to cook the Keta salmon was my next thought. This was skin-on Keta salmon, so I knew I wanted to sear it. (It’s so much fun to sear fish, although I have to open windows and spend time fanning smoke away from the smoke alarm when it, invariably, starts to scream.) 

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The fennel seeds, I decided, would be toasted then crushed into powder with a mortar and pestle. Later, as the salmon seared, I sprinkled the toasted fennel powder over each salmon portion before putting the fish in the oven to roast. Keta salmon is the firmest-textured among all Alaska’s salmon and tolerates searing and roasting very well without breaking apart. Along with the other ingredients, the Keta salmon was amazingly tasteful with a crunchy skin from the searing. I know you would love it. Have you ever tasted Keta salmon from Alaska? What different types of salmon have you tried? Check out http://www.wildalaskaflavor.com/ to discover more types of salmon and to learn more about Alaska seafood.
Recipe: Sear-Roasted Keta Salmon with Fennel-Pear Salad (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

For Fish:
1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed (reserve 1/2 tablespoon)
4 to 6 Alaska Keta Salmon fillets with skin (4-6 ounces each), fresh or thawed and patted dry
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (use a bit more, if desired, to adjust for taste)
Cracked white pepper
2 tablespoons clarified butter (aka Ghee), divided

For Salad:
1 fresh fennel bulb (about one pound), sliced thinly 
2 D’Angou pears, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon fennel powder (from the reserved toasted, crushed seeds)
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (or kosher salt)
Handful of fennel fronds
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

Directions for Fish

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  1. Toast whole fennel seeds over medium heat in small fryer or saute pan. Remove seeds when they are golden brown or when they begin to pop. Allow seeds to cool. Crush seeds with mortar and pestle or for a few seconds in an electric coffee grinder. Place toasted, crushed seeds in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place fish, skin side down, on a clean cutting board (used only for fish and meats) and sprinkle salt on the fleshy side of each piece of salmon. Add cracked pepper on each fillet. Melt one tablespoon of the clarified butter (Ghee) in a 10-12 inch, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. When pan is very hot (oil shimmers), place two fillets, skin side down, in a 10-inch pan (do not crowd the pan. Cook fillets in two batches, using another tablespoon of ghee for the second batch). If your skillet is 12 inches or larger, you can sear three pieces at a time. 
  3. Gently press each fish portion with a spatula to ensure even contact with the pan during searing. Sear for 5 minutes on one side. Sprinkle toasted, crushed fennel on each fillet. Do not turn fish. Watch the sides of fillets until each appears two-thirds cooked. Place fish directly in hot oven for 2-3 minutes or until fish reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees. Remove from oven and let the fish rest.
Directions for Salad: 
  1. In large-sized prep bowl, combine sliced fennel bulb and slice pears. Add olive oil and toss gently with your hands or with silicone-tipped tongs. Season with the reserved (remaining) toasted, crushed fennel, smoked salt, and white pepper. 
  2. Add fennel fronds and chopped parsley and toss again.
  3. Immediately before serving, mound a handful of the Fennel-Pear salad on serving plates and top each mound with one of the Keta salmon fillets.
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* Disclaimer: Although I was provided with a food product via the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, all opinions in this post are my own.
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