salmon with a Thai touch

Here in Albuquerque we don’t have local fish, but we do have a local couple, the Fishhuggers, who sell Alaskan salmon and other fish, sustainably fished in Alaska by the Fishhugger himself. It’s frozen shortly after being caught, and when thawed and promptly cooked, is a lot closer to fresh than anything we can buy in the stores. You can find it at the Corralles farmers’ market. I keep frozen blanched greens in my freezer in one-cup portions, ready when I need a winter pick-me-up.
When I cook salmon I usually use their wild-caught sockeye, which is a brilliant red-orange tone and loaded with omega-3s. I like to use other brilliant colors, usually bright greens, to complement the lovely fish. Today I combined the salmon with Thai accompaniments, and the green coconut-milk curry set off the plainly pan-grilled fish beautifully. Whenever you eat fish, remember to support sustainable fishing! The Seafood Watch card is a handy way to decide what to buy. Click here to print one out.

Thai salmon in green curry
1 fillet sockeye salmon, preferably a small one weighing less than a pound.
1/2 recipe green curry paste (see below)
1 can coconut milk
about 1 cup blanched spinach or mixed greens, squeezed free of excess moisture, or 8-10 oz. fresh spinach cut crosswise at 1 inch intervals.
1-2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (optional)
half a bunch of green coriander

Rub the salmon fillet with a little fish sauce and a little green curry paste. Cut in half if necessary to make it fit in your large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium heat, sear the salmon about 90 seconds on each side, and remove to a plate and cover with another plate (it will still be raw in the middle.) Return the skillet to the burner and pour in the coconut milk. When it starts to bubble, add the green curry paste and a tablespoon of fish sauce, stir in, and stir in the blanched greens or the fresh spinach. If using fresh spinach, cook rapidly until the spinach is wilted and bright green. If using blanched greens just stir them in briefly. Now lay the fillet back in the skillet, skin side down, and cook over low heat 2-3 more minutes or until the salmon is just barely cooked through. Don’t spoon the sauce over the fish, because it would spoil the color contrast. As soon as the salmon is cooked, check the sauce for flavor, add a little more fish sauce if necessary, and serve over jasmine rice with a generous “snow” of chopped green corainder on top. Enjoy your omega-3s in style. Serves two hungry people or three of more modest appetites, and serves four if used as part of a Thai meal with a few other dishes.

Green Curry Paste
This is a treasure to have in your freezer, where it will keep for over a month. It makes the preparation of a fresh-tasting and lively green curry a snap.
1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 1/2 tablespoons shrimp paste, wrapped in a double layer of aluminum foil (Ta-Lin’s in Albuquerque carries shrimp paste)
12 whole peppercorns
3 teasoons minced or grated lime peel (kaffir lime if you can get it.)
2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed to 3″ of tender stalk and sliced very finely
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems (packed tightly in the measuring cup.)
1/3 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 cup chopped shallots
6-10 serrano chilis, depending on your taste for heat, sliced thinly
6 leaves fresh green Romaine lettuce torn into pieces
Dry-roast the seeds in a small hot skillet just until their scent comes up. Be careful not to scorch them. Pour into a mortar to cool. Put the square of shrimp paste in a foil wrapping in the skillet, and toast about 5 minutes, turning once or twice. As soom as its aroma hits you, stop. Peel off the foil and throw it in the mortar with the seeds. Grind them to a coarse powder, then transfer to the food processor and add all the other ingredients. Process to a smooth damp paste. Pack into small airtight containers. This amount makes enough for two smallish curries or one big one. Freeze whatever you aren’t going to use within a day or two.

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