I love going out to eat at restaurants. I recently spent a weekend in Portland, Oregon, a city to which I had never traveled before, and upon arriving spent many hours doing tourist research on the web. But when I arrived there I realized that I had only read about one thing: the restaurants. The only question I had to ask was; where would I eat? So I accepted it; that’s all I care about: food. But a city’s food scene is a reflection of the it’s overall vibe and Portland gets two thumbs up from me across the board. And after three days of devouring everything from chicken-fried chicken livers at Clyde Common at the Ace Hotel, to warm marionberry filled donuts at Gruner, to enormous bahn mi sandwiches and spring rolls from the how-am-I-ever-going-to-decide-which-colorful-food-truck-to go-to street cart, I was ready to come back and make a home-cooked meal.
This recipe, inspired by one by Jamie Oliver, is one of those magic ones that makes you feel like you’re eating at your new favorite restaurant except it tastes so fresh because you actually just made it in your very own kitchen AND it was really easy. It’s true: as much as I love restaurants, there is nothing quite like a delicious meal cooked at home. The aioli in this recipe is, if you will, the icing on the cake. It makes the dish. So don’t leave it out. And don’t be intimidated by the idea of hand-whisked aioli. It’s actually incredibly easy and you’ll be so excited when you taste it.
Crispy Skin Salmon with Spring Vegetables and Herb Aioli
- 1 egg yolk from a large organic or free-range egg
- 1/3 cup grapeseed oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- a pinch of cayenne
- 4 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed and sprigs reserved for aioli
- 2 1/2 lb salmon fillets with skin
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, torn in to 1/2 inch pieces, 1 tablespoon chopped for aioli
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn in to 1 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb asparagus spears, tough ends removed, cut at an angle into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup Fava beans, removed from pods
MAKE AIOLI: Place the garlic clove, 1 teaspoon of salt and cracked black pepper in a pestle and smash it with mortar. Place the egg yolk and mustard in a medium bowl and whisk together. Whisk in grapeseed oil drop by drop as slowly as possible. Continue whisking in all of the grapeseed oil like this as the mixture thickens and then begin to do the same with the olive oil. Once you’ve added a few drops of the olive oil and it is emulsified, you can start to add the rest in larger amounts. When all of the oil is in the mixture, add the garlic, lemon juice, basil and fennel fronds and cayenne. Season it to taste with salt, pepper.
When you’ve finished making your aioli, bring your chicken broth to a boil in a medium or large pot. Add the fennel bulbs and continue boiling for 5 minutes while you heat up a non-stick grill pan over high heat. Score the skin of the salmon fillets and pat them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place skin-side down in the grill-pan. Leave them for 2 minutes to get really crispy then check how they’re doing. They’ll want around 4 minutes on the skin side and 1 minute on the other. You’ll get an idea of how they’re cooking as you’ll see the salmon change colour.
When the fennel has had 5 minutes to cook, check it. If it needs more time, give it a further 2 minutes. The fennel will be nice and soft. Check the salmon, and when the skin is very crispy, turn over the salmon fillets for their last minute. Add the asparagus and Fava beans and cook for a final 2 minutes. Remove the salmon from the heat when it has turned light pink throughout. Divide the vegetables between 2 bowls, ladle over some of your hot cooking stock and place the salmon, skin side up, on top. Sprinkle with mint and basil. Place a dollop of aioli on top of the salmon skin and garnish with fennel fronds.