Post image for Pan Roasted Salmon with Braised Fennel and Port Wine Reduction

It’s that time of year again; wild salmon season. But you ask, “Isn’t salmon always available?” The short answer is yes, but the salmon you see most of the year in the grocery store and on restaurant menus is farmed Atlantic, not wild. Why is that an important distinction? Because wild salmon not only tastes better, it’s better for you. A few years ago, I wrote a post about why wild salmon is so special, including a recipe for Wild Salmon with Quinoa, Dandelion Greens and Parsley Pistachio Vinaigrette and I don’t think I can explain it any better than I did back then, so here goes:

Think of it as the difference between an animal raised on a farm, kept in a pen, fed a diet of processed feed, antibiotics and colorants vs. one which has had the freedom to follow its natural path, eating the same food its ancestors have for thousands of years with nothing else added.

Salmon are anadromous fish which means they are born in a fresh water river, migrate out to the sea, and when they are ready to spawn, they swim back upstream to procreate in the exact same spot they were born. In order to do this, they feed and fatten themselves up for the journey because they need to expend a ton of energy to get upstream. It’s at this point that the fishermen capture them, at the mouth of the river, when they are at the absolute peak of their existence. While it may sound sad to capture an animal in the prime of its life, many are allowed to get through to continue the cycle of life. And trust me, you don’t want to eat them after they have spawned. They stop feeding once they enter the river and are quite literally spent at the end of their journey. The salmon I cooked was Columbia River King Salmon which is supposed to have the highest oil content of any salmon out there because they have the longest trip upriver to swim. This oil adds flavor and those good omega filled fish oils we all hear about.

This year, the first of the season wild salmon is again coming from the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. The recipe I’m sharing today includes braised fennel and red pearl onions which pair well with the earthy flavor of the salmon. The port wine reduction adds a touch of sweetness with a bit of acidity from balsamic vinegar.

Tell me, do you make a point of buying wild salmon when it’s available? Do you go fishing for it? My grandfather did when I was a kid, and I regret that I didn’t like salmon back then!

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Pan Roasted Wild Salmon with Braised Fennel and Port Wine Reduction

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 pieces of salmon, skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 fennel bulbs (about 2 lbs with stems)
  • 10 oz red pearl onions
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 short branches of fresh rosemary (about .25 oz)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • Port Balsamic Reduction
  •  1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup Port wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. To Braise the Fennel:
  3. Cut the stalks off the fennel bulb and trim the root end. Reserve some of the fennel fronts for garnish if desired. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and then each half into 4 wedges.
  4. Cut the stem ends off the pearl onions and then peel off the outer skin. Leave the onions whole.
  5. Heat a large sauté pan and add the olive oil. Add about half of the fennel in a single layer in the pan and cool until golden brown. Turn the fennel over and cook the other side. Season with salt and pepper. When both sides are brown, move the fennel pieces to a 9”x13” baking dish.
  6. Cook the remaining fennel pieces along with the pearl onions until brown and add them to the baking dish.
  7. While the sauté pan is still hot, add the wine and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, then pour over the fennel and onions in the baking dish. Add the rosemary branches to the pan and then place the pan in the oven, uncovered.
  8. Cook for 35-45 minutes or until the fennel is tender.
  9. To cook the salmon:
  10. Place the pieces of salmon on a plate skin side up. Pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Heat a large sauté pan and then add the oil. Using long tongs, gently place the salmon in the hot pan, skin side down. Depending on the thickness of the fish cook for about 4-5 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Gently turn the fish over and cook the flesh side of the fish. If the piece is very thick, you may want to finish cooking the fish in the sauté pan, in the 400 degree oven (assuming it is in an oven-safe pan). Finishing in the oven will allow the fish to cook move evenly. You’ll want to allow about 5 minutes of cooking time for each inch of thickness of the fish.
  12. To serve, remove some of the braised fennel and onions from the braising liquid and place them on a plate. Rest the pan roasted salmon on top, crispy skin side up.
  13. Port Balsamic Reduction
  14. In a small stock pot, add the red wine, port, and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook, reducing the liquid to a syrup. Watch it closely at the end of the reduction process because it can easily burn at this point.
  15. When the liquid is thick (after about 20 minutes) remove from heat and whisk in a tablespoon of cold butter. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon sparingly over the fish and onto the plate.
http://www.formerchef.com/2015/05/20/pan-roasted-salmon-with-braised-fennel-and-port-wine-reduction/

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The Verdugo Sunset, a Tequila Cocktail

by formerchef on May 4, 2015

Post image for The Verdugo Sunset, a Tequila Cocktail

“It was delicious, and deceptively strong,” said my husband.

And it is. :-)

I’d made the drink for us as a wind-down on Friday night after work. We sat out on the backyard patio, enjoying the sunset and some cheese and bread on a warm night, and I knew what the name of the drink would be immediately. Our view is of the Verdugo Hills which are a precursor to the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California, and it faces northwest so the sunsets can be spectacular (see photo below). Given that the drink has Tequila (think, Tequila Sunrise, orange and a splash of something red), well, you get the inspiration, right? But this is no sickly sweet 70’s drink, I promise.

I’m not much for drinking holidays like Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day. I think any day is a good one for making a decent cocktail. And you may have noticed that I’m not one of those food bloggers with a publication calendar full of holiday specific posts, but since Tuesday is Cinco de Mayo, I thought the timing was too good not to share this cocktail. Enjoy!

Some tips: The orange syrup used in this cocktail is the exact same recipe as the grapefruit syrup used in my Pisco cocktail, the Sacred Valley, just substitute 5 large oranges for the 3 grapefruit in the recipe. If you don’t want to make it, you can substitute fresh orange juice and simple syrup, but it won’t be quite the same.

If you can, use a large ice cube for the ice in the glass. The ice melts more slowly so the drink doesn’t get diluted as fast. I use an inexpensive silicone ice tray like this one; large cube silicone ice tray. Regular ice is fine (and preferred) in the shaker.

For this drink you’ll need a cocktail shaker and a jigger for measuring. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive (the ones I have are just like these in the links) but I do prefer using them. I like the consistency and extra coldness of a shaken drink and the precision of using the jigger for measuring.

I don’t have a muddler (I used a narrow wooden spoon), but the right tool is probably more effective. (Some of the links above are amazon affiliate links; you don’t have to buy, they’re there for example, but if you do shop, it helps support this blog and the cost is the same, regardless)

The Verdugo Sunset

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Tequila
  • .5 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz Orange Syrup *see link above for grapefruit syrup recipe
  • .25 oz fresh mint, sprigs and leaves
  • 2 oz soda water
  • 1 teaspoon Campari
  • ice

Instructions

  1. Muddle 7 to 10 mint leaves in the bottom of the cocktail shaker with the lime juice.
  2. Add the tequila, orange syrup and a handful of ice to the shaker. Shake for 20 seconds.
  3. Pour the drink though the shaker's strainer into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube (or smaller cubes).
  4. Add 2 oz of soda water and float the Campari over the top of the ice cube (pour slowly into the top of the drink so it layers at the top and trickles down the sides).
  5. Garnish with mint sprig.
http://www.formerchef.com/2015/05/04/the-verdugo-sunset-a-tequila-cocktail/
VerdugoSunset02

The Verdugo Sunset

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Tequila
  • .5 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz Orange Syrup *see link above for grapefruit syrup recipe
  • .25 oz fresh mint, sprigs and leaves
  • 2 oz soda water
  • 1 teaspoon Campari
  • ice

Instructions

  1. Muddle 7 to 10 mint leaves in the bottom of the cocktail shaker with the lime juice.
  2. Add the tequila, orange syrup and a handful of ice to the shaker. Shake for 20 seconds.
  3. Pour the drink though the shaker's strainer into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube (or smaller cubes).
  4. Add 2 oz of soda water and float the Campari over the top of the ice cube (pour slowly into the top of the drink so it layers at the top and trickles down the sides).
  5. Garnish with mint sprig.
http://www.formerchef.com/2015/05/04/the-verdugo-sunset-a-tequila-cocktail/

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Herbed Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomato and Pesto

April 26, 2015
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The last post, on Seven Simple Steps for Party Planning Success was all about a canape and cocktails party I had a while back. Funny thing is, while it was a great party, I was a bad blogger. I only took photos of the party and not of the prep work, nor did I write […]

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Seven Simple Steps for Party Planning Success

March 21, 2015
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Here at chez Former Chef, we’ve been known to throw a party or two in our time. Our New Year’s Day brunch attracts 30-40 people every year and we often do a 4th of July BBQ for about the same. These are not pot lucks either. Pulling off parties of this size with food that […]

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Kampachi Crudo with Citrus and Watermelon Radish

March 14, 2015
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A few days ago I saw an article come through my news feed called “If Cinderella were a Vegetable, She’d be a Watermelon Radish“. Never mind that the Kitchn is recycling 5 year old posts (what’s up with that?), it got me thinking…hey, I have a recipe which uses watermelon radishes! Last year I posted […]

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Penne alla Vodka; Old School Revival

March 7, 2015

I wanted to hate this dish because, basically, I must be a food snob. That’s the only reason I could think of when I asked myself why I didn’t want to make this recipe. There’s the vodka thing (I don’t really like it) but that wasn’t the real reason. It had to be something else… My […]

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