How do recipes become heirloom recipes? We all have our go-to meals that we cook over and over. Our families and friends love them even after having them a million times. We cooks like them because we have the recipes burnt into our brains. The grocery cart finds its way to the key ingredients in aisles 2, 3, and 8 with GPS-guided precision. And finally, we can put the whole thing together in minutes, for what is reliably a picture-perfect outcome. My scallion-and-ginger-crusted salmon is just such an heirloom recipe.
I have fond memories cooking this meal with good friends in Santa Barbara during my first year in the US. I’d had limited success convincing these American friends on the virtues of sauerkraut, dumplings and bratwurst. Nein! So I brought out the ginger and scallions. This was twenty years ago and, at the time, ginger was still quite exotic. But I was taken by the sharp yet refreshing taste of the ginger root. Decades later I still roast salmon fillets with this marinade of ginger, scallions and garlic, enhanced all the more by soy sauce and olive oil.
The original recipe calls for marinating the fish for about 30 minutes with all these ingredients. That gives you a very intense soy and garlic flavor—an overwhelming taste that maybe feels a little too low-budget-Thai for me. I prefer to top the fillets with the marinade and broil them right away. You’ll want to turn the broiler to its highest setting, and place the top of the fish 4 inches from the coils. The ginger-scallion mixture will thereby brown and cook nicely, while not overcooking the salmon. I measure the temperature of the salmon and pull out the pan when it reaches 110 degrees.
Fresh snap peas are a perfect complement to this fish, and only require a few minutes to prepare. While keeping one eye on the salmon, follow the recipe below. The only problem? These peas are really good—like me, you’ll end up wishing you’d prepared more than 5 pieces per plate….
- 4 to 5 oz thick salmon fillet per person (4 oz seems to be the portion preferred by skinny New Yorkers), so 1 to 1.5 lb for 4 eaters
- 1 bunch of scallions, neatly chopped
- 2 oz of ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb of fresh snap peas
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
- Put your broiler on high
- By hand or in a mini food processor, finely chop the garlic and the ginger
- Mix with the sliced scallions, add soy sauce and olive oil
- Season, but be careful with salt as the soy sauce typically has adequate sodium (like, enough to make your arteries explode). But add some pepper
- Remove the skin from the salmon fillets and arrange on a baking sheet
- Top generously with your marinade
- Broil until the top is nicely browned and cooked, and the inside of the salmon reaches 110 degrees
- While the salmon is broiling, heat your sauté pan with the butter and a couple tablespoons of water. Sauté the peas over medium to medium-hot heat. They cook in just a few minutes: if you time it right, the water will have evaporated right as the peas are done. By this method, they will retain a little bit of crunchiness. Season with salt and pepper
- Plate and serve all this fabulousness right away