Behold! Harissa Maple Glazed Salmon over French Lentils with Braised Fennel, Baby Carrots, and a Cucumber-Mint Yogurt. Enjoy it, because you’re not likely to see anything this involved in only one posting from me for a while. It was all very delicious, but my God what was I thinking? Four recipes?
When Harissa Maple Glazed Salmon is Not Enough
Raise a glass and offer a toast to over-ambition! Ever had a seemingly brilliant and excessively ambitious idea that had you scratching your head and saying “What the heck was I thinking?” in retrospect? Yeah, I just had one of those.
It reminds me of a time one weekend during my graduate school days when I got the bright idea to make dim sum for a dinner party…all…by…myself. I bought a nice bamboo steamer rack and ingredients to make steamed buns filled with BBQ, about six different kinds of dumplings, and four or five dipping sauces. Insanity! There’s no way one person can make all of that from scratch in a day. After three kinds of dumplings and maybe two dipping sauces I threw in the towel. Instead of dinner it was more like heavy hors d’oeuvres.
I do this sort of thing to myself all the time. It’s some odd personality quirk. Anyway, I just did it again with this recipe. Or rather, I should say I just did it to myself again with this set of recipes.
This time I got myself into this mess by looking at a few fancy restaurant chef’s cookbooks. Now a lot of these cookbooks don’t simply show you how to make this particular dish or that. No, they show you how to make a meal. And it makes a certain amount of sense. When you order a main course at a restaurant it comes with stuff. The chef has a vision for how several items–usually a protein, a few sides, maybe with a sauce–combine to create a delightful culinary experience.
“Hey, I should start doing that!” I thought to myself. After all, some readers of this fine blog will sometimes ask me, “Hey Steve, what goes well with that?” Well let me tell you exactly what goes well. Let me make a full dinner menu for you.
So now instead of developing a single recipe for a post I’ll just develop four or five recipes? Well, that’s not how I was thinking about it when I happened upon my brilliant idea. However, for all intents and purposes that’s what happened.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t make this meal! I don’t mean to imply that in the least. Actually cooking these things all at once to serve to your family or your friends is not that big a deal. Nothing here is overly fussy or labor intensive. Even the Harissa Maple Glazed Salmon is super easy to make. It’s the recipe writing part. The nutritional calculation part. That adds up. So now I get why food bloggers tend to focus on one thing at a time. I sometimes have to learn things the hard way, but I have learned and I am enlightened.
About this Harrisa Maple Glazed Salmon with Lentils and Braised Fennel
These are simple recipes. Probably the most technical part is getting a nice crispy skin on the salmon. And I’m going to tell you here and now that even that’s not very difficult if you do it right.
I believe I described how to get a crispy crust on a skinless piece of fish just last a few weeks ago in my Halibut and Carrot Ginger Puree recipe. This is the same idea, except one side of the salmon still has skin on it. That’s a big plus because it acts as a sort of heat shield to the intense heat of the pan.
Instead of putting the prettiest side down, as in that halibut recipe, you put the skin side down. And then you don’t touch it for a while. Let it cook until you see the fish go opaque around the edges. You want the fish to be mostly done before you finally flip it. And when you do the skin should be crispy and caramelized. Then you just finish off the flesh side for a few minutes more to cook the harissa maple glaze a bit. And it’s done!
By the way, if you want to make your own harissa (and I highly recommend you do–it’ll keep in the refridgerator almost indefinitely), I have a harissa recipe right here.
Hope you enjoy this. It’s quite a meal!
- 1 Cup French (Le Puy) Lentils
- 4 Cups Water
- 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Leek, white part only, cut lengthwise and sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 1 Small Yellow Onion, diced
- 3 Celery Stalks, diced about the same size and the diced onion
- 3 Carrots, diced about the same size as the diced onion
- ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
- ½ Teaspoon Dried Tarragon
- 1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
- 1 Tablespoon Coarse, Country Style Dijon Mustard
- 2 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
- ½ English Cucumber, peeled and grated
- 1 Cup Plain Yogurt
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Mint
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill, finely chopped
- 2 Large Fennel Bulbs, cut lengthwise into eighths (a piece of stem should stay attached to hold each blade of fennel in tact)
- 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pinch of Salt
- ¼ Cup Dry White Wine
- ¼ Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Pound Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon, skin on, cut into four 4 oz. steaks
- 2 Tablespoons Harissa
- 1 Teaspoon Maple Syrup
- Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
- Fresh Thyme
- Smoked Spanish Paprika
- Bring the water to a boil and add the dry lentils. Simmer uncovered until lentils are tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sweat the onions, carrots, and celery with the salt until vegetables are soft. About 12 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs and cook a few minutes more. Remove from heat.
- Add the vegetable mixture to the lentils along with the mustard and vinegar. Stir to combine.
- Add the cucumer, mint, and dill to the yogurt. Mix well and allow to sit (can be made a day a day ahead of time).
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the fennel pieces and salt and saute, turning occasionally, until surfaces of fennel are caramelized (about 12 minutes).
- Add the wine and lemon juice and cover skillet. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until fennel is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Mix together the harissa and maple syrup.
- Dry the skin side of the salmon fillets completely. Distribute the harissa-maple glaze mixture equally to the flesh side of the four fillets.
- Add the olive oil to a skillet over high heat. Heat until the oil is shimmering hot but not smoking (this is important to get a nice caramelized sear).
- Add the salmon skin side down, two pieces at a time, leaving a decent amount of space between them. Press the fillets firmly onto the cooking surface to get a good sear.
- Allow the salmon to sear until you can see the fish is turning opaque and cooked most of the way up the sides. The fleshy surface may be turning opaque on the thinner sections as well. Most of the cooking occurs on this side, since the skin is tough and protects the fillet.. You’ll flip the fish only to quickly finish the other. You’re going to want to peek at the seared skin side early. Fight this urge! You need to be patient here. You want a good caramelized sear on the surface. Also, like all proteins, the fish will stick to the pan when you first add it. If you try to flip it, It’ll tear the skin. Wait! After it cooks and caramelizes well, it’ll loosen up.
- Flip the fillets and allow them to finish cooking (probably just another two or three minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a sheet of newsprint or paper towel skin side up to absorb the oil. Skin side up is key. You worked hard to make that crispy brown skin. If you place it skin side down it’ll steam and get soggy on you.
- Place a quarter of the lentils on a plate.
- Add two fennel quarters to the plate.
- Add one salmon fillet skin side up to the plate.
- Add a dollop of yogurt and garnish with parsley, fresh thyme, and a sprinkle of paprika.
- You’ll notice I added a few steamed carrots to mine too. That’s optional.