Time for salmon fillets. Haven’t had them in a while, and it’s like an itch that won’t go away. In our family, we love salmon. And normally, we like it simple, a piece of fish with a drizzle of butter and olive oil. But sometimes we pull out all the stops and make it a banquet. I recently had that epiphany with one of my favorites, pepper encrusted salmon. To be honest, peppered salmon is not for everyone. Some folks, like my lovely wife, find the crusted pepper a bit strong. In fact, too spicy. So, I thought, why not have a sauce that could mitigate the pepper flavor; not necessary overwhelm it, but compliment it on the palette. And this was the result, Pepper Encrusted Salmon Fillets with Creamy Piccata Sauce.
A piccata sauce is one made with lemon juice, parsley and butter. It comes from the Italian “piccata,” or “larded.”It’s most popular incarnation is that popular dish, Chicken Piccata. In this recipe we add capers and sour cream to give it a refreshing tang. The beauty of this dish is that it can be served with any accompaniment. You can have it with rice, pasta, potatoes, or plain vegetables. So, treat family and friends to something special for dinner. No one will be disappointed.
Note that, for that genuine Nuyorican flavor, the recipe calls for the use of a mortar and pestle to crush the peppercorns, garlic and salt. A mortar and pestle can be found these days in almost any store or supermarket. If you don’t have a mortar, simple place the ingredients between two sheets of waxed paper and pound with a cleaver or heavy knife. You can cheat and use ground pepper and garlic powder but, believe me, it won’t taste the same.
PEPPER ENCRUSTED SALMON WITH CREAMY PICCATA SAUCE
4 salmon fillets or 1 pound center-cut salmon cut into four pieces
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 clove garlic, peeled
Pinch of sea salt or to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
¼ cup sour cream
- Rinse salmon fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- In a mortar, crush well peppercorns, garlic and salt. Press peppercorn mix into salmon, coating thoroughly. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, and boil slightly until reduced, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and capers. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream.
- Now, here, you can go two ways. You can place the the piccata sauce in a warm saucer or small bowl and set aside, then wipe the skillet clean with paper towels and use for the next step. Or, you can heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in another skillet until the oil is hot but not smoking; add the salmon and saute 2 minutes on each side or until it just flakes. Place the fillets in a serving platter, top with the piccata sauce and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.