Friday, March 1, 2013

Spice-dusted Salmon w/ Absinthe-Tarragon Beurre Blanc

Over the past week or so, I have been experimenting with Absinthe.  In food, not in my glass.

Somebody I know asked me if I had any experience cooking with Absinthe, and I had to say that I did not.  Well, if you know me, you probably know what that resulted in.  Getting some experience.  It's true.  If there is something I despise, it's not being knowledgeable - at least a tiny bit - about some area of cooking or baking.  Not that I claim to know everything.  Far from it.  But taking a lack of knowledge and turning it around makes me happy.

So that's what I did.

The first step was touring the liquor stores.  Seriously, it was a tour.  I was on the hunt for a particular brand of Absinthe (Pernod) that I never did wind up finding locally.  Basically what was I was able to find in my immediate vicinity were two brands: Absente and Absinthe Ordinaire.  I bought a bottle of each.

I'm not going to go too in depth about actual Absinthe today, though - I have a bottle of the Pernod on the way and I want to do a post that is only about the liqueur itself soon.  So, more on that later.
Back to the matter at hand, which is cooking with Absinthe.  You'll see several different recipes using it this month, including this one (my favorite so far).  I've found that the black licorice-y flavor of Absinthe and any herb or spice with that similar flavor profile go together very well (tarragon, anise, fennel).  I dusted this salmon with a spice blend that included a couple of those flavors and served it with a beurre blanc made with Absinthe and tarragon.

Now, you'd think a piece of salmon (a fatty fish) that is served with a (ridiculously delicious) butter sauce would be heavy, wouldn't you?  Well, you'd be wrong.  This combination feels light and Spring-like (I'm not saying it IS light, just that it feels that way).  It must be the cool sensation imparted by that "flavor family".  Enjoying it is one of those "close your eyes and melt" sort of experiences.  The addition of some slender steamed haricot vert would complete the experience.

On a side note, do you notice that insanely beautiful yellow of my beurre blanc?  That's all thanks to Kerrygold Butter.  Something I can't get enough of right now.  The yellow comes from the high content of fat-soluble vitamins resulting from Kerrygold's grass fed cows.  Of course I like the health benefits, but that flavor?  It's what gets me.

Spice-dusted Salmon w/ Absinthe-Tarragon Beurre Blanc

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Keywords: saute entree absinthe butter salmon tarragon

Ingredients (serves 4)
    for the beurre blanc:
      reduction
      • 2½ Tbs. white wine vinegar
      • 2½ Tbs. Absinthe
      • 1 Tbs. minced shallots
      • ½ tsp. salt
      • ⅛ tsp. pepper
      • pinch crushed anise seeds
      • 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) butter
      to finish
      • 8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 16 pieces
      • 2 long sprigs tarragon, leaves stripped and chopped
      • salt
      • pepper
      • lemon juice
      for the salmon:
      • 4 (4 oz.) salmon fillets, skinned
      • ½ tsp. coriander seeds
      • ½ tsp. fennel seeds
      • ½ tsp. anise seeds
      • salt
      • freshly ground pepper
      • ~2 Tbs. unsalted butter
      Instructions
      Beurre Blanc (yield: ~1 cup)
      Place all of the ingredients for the reduction into a 6-cup medium-weight saucepan and bring to a boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency (~1½ tablespoons should remain). This won't take long once it starts boiling.

      Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately beat in 2 pieces of the chilled butter. As it softens and creams in the liquid, beat in another piece. Set the saucepan over very low heat and, beating constantly, continue to add the butter, one piece at a time, once the previous piece is almost entirely absorbed. The sauce should be thick.

      Immediately remove from heat as soon as all the butter has been added and stir in the tarragon. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and/or lemon juice. Hold in pan on the back of the stove to keep warm (no heat underneath) while you make the salmon. Whisk once before serving.

      salmon
      Place all three seeds in a small pan over medium-low heat and toast, shaking and moving the pan around often, 3-5 minutes or until fragrant. Grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle. Add a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of pepper; stir to combine.

      Lightly dust both sides of each piece of salmon with this spice mixture.

      Place a large skillet over medium heat and add butter. Once butter has melted and starts to foam a bit, add the salmon to the pan, "good side" down. Cook without moving for 2 minutes. Carefully flip the salmon over and cook for another 3 minutes or until just cooked through. If you don't have a pan large enough to hold all of the salmon, sauté it in batches, dividing the butter accordingly.

      Remove from pan and serve immediately with the Absinthe-Tarragon Beurre Blanc.
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      Watch for more "cooking with Absinthe" to come.  Have you ever cooked with Absinthe?  If so, what did/do you make (feel free to leave links).


      disclosure: I am a member of the Kerrygold Food Blogger Network.  All opinions stated in this post are my own.