Chipotle-Glazed Alaska Salmon with Spicy Peanut Salsa
from Chef Rick Bayless
long time ago there was no food network, no Emerill no game
show food shows (yes, even before Iron Chef Japan)... at least none
that we were aware of. There was Julia. There were a few
others both renowned and not so much...
Still, with the renaissance that is clearly traced to Julia Child,
America did start to get its own home grown great chefs/restauranteurs.
In our minds, this includes the great Rick Bayless who rose to
prominence by somehow being one of the best Mexican chefs around. He is
hardly Mexican, but he knows how and his books are excellent
references. We first actually spoke with him when he came to a local
restaurant as a guest chef. We have seen him several times at his own
restaurants in Chicago. Each time he was gracious and welcoming. Very
much like what you see in his TV shows: Mexico--One Plate at a Time.
Watch the show, buy the books.
Why we came about this dish is lost to memory. Probably we had just
acquired some good salmon and wanted to do something "Mexican" with it.
We found the recipe on the internet, cooked it, paired it
with a Nalle Winery Zinfandel and loved it so much we wrote to the
winery and told them all about it. That was a long time ago. This more
or less blog brings everything full circle.
Looking about the 'net now we see there is a variation of the recipe on
one of Mr. Bayless' websites, but we're going with the one we did back
This is a dish that is really very simple. There may be a few steps you
aren't familiar with, but it is worth getting to know them. The result
is spectacular and delicious. And, of course, because this is cooking
the way you want to eat, there are a few places to use your own
Cooking by the Book?
ook, we have thousands of cookbooks. Do we ever follow the recipes
completely to the letter? Sure. But there are so many reasons to stray
off the printed word.
The first is, sometimes the recipes are just wrong. Maybe it was a typo
that got through the entire editing process, or maybe (and this happens
more than we'd like to imagine), there wasn't really much editing
process. (Same goes for a whole lot of recipes you get off the 'net,
including ours, there is no huge team of - or even just a
few - people testing the recipes. Is that half cup of salt in
the recipe for real? Rarely. You do need to exercise some judgment. If
you end up with a disaster and want to try it again, you do need to
figure out some of the fundamentals that will guide you.
Or maybe you have the perfect recipe, but it has snow peas and all your
life (due to an unfortunate childhood experience) you have hated
anything to do with
snow. Can you substitute snap peas? Probably.
Or you are half way through a Vietnamese recipe that somebody told you
was tremenous and you find out somebody threw out the lemongrass you
spent a day looking for (because they thought it looked dried out and
useless). Can you use some green curry paste that has been in your
fridge for a year or two? Uh, that's what we did.
Did you know that the weather can change your cooking? Humidity in the
air can wreck havoc with baking and even can keep your steak from
Some recipes are perfect and still, the next time you make it, you can
make it your own by tweaking things to be more to your taste. (Last
night we had a dish we've made a dozen times and only just realized
--in the middle of eating it-- it would be oh so much better
with some sliced toasted almonds. Quick to the freezer. Yes! Found
some! And we were
Cookbooks are great (we think so). We use them and we use them for
ideas. You don't need thousand's, just one's that strike your fancy...
We know the ones we go back to time and again, yet still there is so
much more that we don't know and enjoy finding out.
So, Common Sense
ur salmon recipe calls for a clove of garlic. These three single
cloves came from the head of garlic you see there. Which one do you
use? The one in the middle is sort of average. In the end, it mostly
depends on how much you like garlic, though too much can be
overwhelming in some cases. If all we had were one's like
that on the right, we'd use two. Learn to trust your instinct.
You'll see below
that we have cut down a recipe meant for 8 people. The original recipe
called for one guajillo or ancho chile. These chiles aren't even the
same size (and there is even can be a large variation within a
particular type of chile) so how much do you use for the original
recipe, let alone
when you cut the recipe down? Common sense. There's really no
reason to say use one-half a chile, particulary
when chiles (even of the same variety) come in different sizes. Since
it seemed like two guajillos was the size of one large ancho and we
wanted to use the guajillos this time 'round, we decided on two
guajillos. (Ancho actually means 'wide chile' in Spanish. they are the top two below. Guajillos, the bottom 3.)
While we're talking anchos,
we should point out that what is called an ancho may depend on where
you live. An ancho is the dried version of the poblano pepper
and a pasilla is the dried version of the chilaca pepper. But
grocers often mislabel anchos as pasillas. There may be regional
variation in the name, but worse, grocers apparently often mislabel one
for the other. And then, some grocers will compound the error by
labeling the FRESH vesion of the ancho a pasilla! According
, pasillas tend to
be longer and slimmer with a deeper shade of brownish-black while
Anchos tend to be much wider and stouter, while featuring
tints of dark red among the browns of the dried chili’s skin.
For the purposes of this recipe since we've already told you you can
use two different types of chiles, it won't matter if you get the
2 Minutes Per Side?
ost fish overcooks very quickly. Many recipes say cook for so many
minutes per side. It doesn't take much to realize that if your fish
fillet is thin on one side and thick on the other, it isn't going to be
cooked right. What to do?
Well, you could cut off the thin side and toss it out or feed it to the
cat, but we don't. There is a simple solution: a toothpick. Just fold
the thin side back on itself till you have even thickness across the
With any luck, after cooking one side, the fish will mostly hold its
shape without the toothpick and you will be able to remove the
toothpick and flip it. In the end the fish will be evenly cooked
througout. Of course this technique is more useful when you have
removed the skin. It isn't impossible to do it with skin, but it may
not have the desired visual appeal. You decide that one.
The original recipe said to cook the salmon for 2
minutes, flip, another two minutes, coat with glaze and cook until done
the way you like it, maybe 2 minutes. Following that to the letter may
get you in big trouble. First off, how thick is your salmon
piece? If really thin, it is going to overcook. Thick? Might
be undercooked. And, how do you like your salmon cooked. Around here,
we like it very much on the rare side. If follow our mantra of HOT
the fish is also going to keep cooking there. If
account for it, the first bite may be okay, but a few minutes later,
overcooked. With fish in particular, use the number of minutes as a
guideline. For us, we tend to cut the times in half--or more.
And that's if the original author was in the ballpark with their
timings. We've seen countless numbers of fish recipes where, if you
follow it word for word, your fish will be sawdust.
As much as we are fans of instant read probe thermometers (see our
roast chicken recipe), we find we haven't had that much success using
them with fish. Maybe we aren't testing often enough. Fish cooks fast!
Remember that carry over heat is going to keep cooking your fish. This
is one that takes practice, knowing the temperature you want for an
individual fish and keeping track for future reference.
Chipotle-Glazed Alaska Salmon with Spicy Peanut Salsa, by Chef Rick
1 clove garlic
1 largish ancho or 2 guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded torn in
1/4 cups salted peanuts, skinless, roasted
2 canned chipotle chiles, removed from the adobo (adobo is the canning liquid)
salt, as needed
1/8 cup honey
2 ea., 6 oz Alaska Salmon fillets, skin removed (really, you
can have any size you want!)
Fresh cilantro and/or green onions and/or Mexican spring
onions for garnish
In a dry skillet, roast the garlic over medium heat, turning
occasionally until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool; peel. In the same skillet toast the chiles, using
a spatula to press them against the heated surface until aromatic - you
may see faint whisps of smoke. Cover with hot water and rehydrate for
20 to 30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a blender with the garlic,
peanuts, and 1 of the canned chipotles. Pour in water to the level of
the peanuts and blend to a smooth puree. If necessary, stir in more
water to give the mixture the consistency of an easily spoonable salsa.
Season with a pinch of salt (the original recipe for 8 people
said: usually about 1/2 tsp.).
Roasting Garlic on a Cast Iron Pan
Cutting Open a Guajillo Chile
Seeds & Membranes Removed
Roasting the Chile
Soaking Chile in Water
The Roasted Garlic
Peanut Sauce Ingredients in Blender
Chopping Canned Chipotles
Peanut Sauce and Honey Glaze
Heat a broiler. In a food processor combine the
remaining chipotle chile with the honey and a pinch of salt
(again, the recipe for 8 said: 1/2 tsp salt). Puree. Lay the fillets
on a lightly oiled baking sheet and position 4 inches below the
broiler. Broil 2 minutes, flip the pieces of fish and return to the
broiler for 2 more minutes. Brush heavily with the glaze, return under
the broiler and cook until as done as you like, usually 2 more minutes
for medium to medium-rare salmon. Serve with the peanut salsa and a
sprinkling of chopped cilantro/ and or the other garnishes.
The original recipe was for 8 people. We cut it down because how often
do you really cook for 8? You can easily double, triple, quadruple the
The text above stays relatively close to Chef Bayless' text. However,
that isn't how we cooked it.
We like our salmon on the rare side so in the end we broiled one side
for about 90 seconds and the other side for about 60 seconds. Because
we put it on very hot plates it keeps cooking there as well. In such a
short period of time we don't really see why it is done in the broiler
at all. The glaze barely has time to be cooked at all (but we admit we
have a very wimpy broiler). That being the case you could just as
easily fry the fish in a pan. Do one side, flip and quickly put on the
glaze and finish. Or wait to put the glaze on after the fish
is done cooking! Just make sure it has been warmed a bit and
If you are going to use a frying pan, you could leave the skin on. Heat
the oil very hot and fry the skin side. With any luck it will be crispy
in the short time it will be cooked. (Of course you have the problem of
how you want to deal with the varying size of the fillet from
thick to thin as detailed above.)
If you REALLY like the skin, remove it, slice it up, and fry
it separately like Chicharrones. Use it as a garnish on top of the fish. A great (and tasty) touch.
Bonus Recipe: Green Chile Rice
The recipes in
the essay on this webpage are all about using your own judgment and
maybe creativity. Not just following everything without thinking about
it. To that end, when we were making the salmon recipe we knew we'd
have rice. We have our way of making rice with Mexican meals,
we thought we'd change it up for this special recipe. It hit on us to
add green chiles. Surfing around the 'net we found a lot of recipes for
Mexican style "Green Chile Rice". They looked good but most of them
included cream. In the end, we really didn't need a recipe. Here's
what we did (was perfect with it):
3/4 cup medium grain rice
Pinch of salt or a little bit of chicken boullion or a cube of your
homemade chicken stock (See our recipe for roast chicken.)
1 or 2 green chiles
some cooking oil
the chiles until blackened. You can do this over an open flame
(we put them on a BBQ rack on top of our gas stovetop... or you could
use the BBQ. Or roast in the oven. Or roast under the broiler. Place in
a fairly tight container
steam and cool. Remove the skin (scrape off with a knife). Chop up and
Put a little bit of cooking oil in a saute pan that has
a cover. Over medium heat saute the rice for about 5 minutes. Don't
brown it. Add the salt, chilies and 1 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a
boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Cook 15 minutes. Turn off the heat
and let sit another 10 minutes.
TIP: We often make
Mexican rice earlier in the day. What we do can also apply to this
rice dish. We have a normal sized pottery soup bowl that will hold it
After the 10 minutes of sitting, we take half the rice and put it in
the bowl, spreading out the rice in the pan. The point of that is to
cool it faster. When they are both cool enough to go in the
fridge, put the rest of the rice from the pan in the bowl.
Cover if you
with plastic wrap. When it is time to eat, reheat the rice in the
microwave. For us it is 5 minutes at full power.
in is the go-to
wine for this dish, so you are all set with Nalle since that's always
been their calling. As we mentioned above, the first time we made this
dish we had it with a Nalle Zin which prompted us to write the winery,
it was that good. That was the 2006 Reserve Zin. We had it again
recently with the 2013 Dry Creek Zin. It should be great with the 2016!
Margarita's would be nice as well.
Here are summaries
of the recipes in a .pdf you can print