Salmon Sandwich Al Pastor/BBQ Flavors
ummer has arrived and we wanted
to do something really different that would pair with
Noir. Notwithstanding the film 'Sideways' (good Merlot really is good)
love Pinot. And Pinot is well known to pair with salmon. So then, what
to do? How many grilled salmon fillets with fruit/or
crusts/or... are out there? Tons. We wanted to explore, and in the face
of summer, BBQ and Mexican flavors we decided to invent our own
Salmon Sandwich. Starting with a recipe we found on the 'net for
a 'Hawaiian Salmon
Sandwich' that used caramelized pineapple we thought, Pineapple, what
about al pastor?
Now tacos al pastor isn't a flavor, it is a method. Al pastor means
'shepherd style' and it is associated with a Mexican dish brought
there by the Lebanese who slice meat off a large spit. But tacos al
pastor the recipe typically uses pineapple juice and caramelized
pineapple rings. The Hawaii recipe used a BBQ sauce so we decided to
convert everything to something with Mexican flavors. A Serious Eats
recipe we've made included bacon and all that led to the creation of
our Salmon Sandwich Al Pastor/BBQ Flavors. Sounds like something out of
We tried it out and found it was a great sandwich that paired
wonderfully with Pinot. So here we present our sandwich along with some
bonus recipes that made for a full fledged summer meal on a plate.
about every pineapple we've seen of late says on their label that they
are ripe and ready to
eat. Like just about every supermarket ad for avocados say "ripe"
aren't). You do want to take a little time to see if you can get one
that is ripe and ready and by the same token, not so ripe as to be
fermenting in your hand. But, how?
to Dole Fruit Hawaii
, a pineapple should be "plump and fresh
looking. Fresh, green leaves in the crown are a good sign. The body
should be firm – not soft. The larger the pineapple, the
greater proportion of edible fruit. That doesn’t mean
necessarily that it is better tasting or any riper than smaller fruit.
Shell color is not necessarily a sign of maturity or ripeness.
A pineapple can be ripe
when it is practically all green outside. The
plantation calls it 'green-shell ripe.' Shell color of ripe fruit are
divided into seven groups or levels ranging from No. 0, all green, to
No. 6, all yellow. The sugar comes
from the conversion of starch reserves in the stump at the time of
ripening . . . . The sooner they are eaten, the better. If
you don’t plan to use a fresh pineapple right away, store it
refrigerator. It will keep better and longer."
The most important test: smell the fruit at the bottom. It should be
fragrant and smell like, well, a ripe pineapple. And while you can buy
an all green, ripe pineapple, if you find one that is yellowing or
yellow you'll probably have a better chance at getting the sweetest
We've heard that you can tell if the fruit is ready by pulling a leaf
out of the top, but according to Dole it just isn't true.
do not get sweeter once picked but there are some who say you can
distribute the sweetness by turning it upside down and letting it sit
few days. But to us, buy a pineapple, store in the fridge, and use it within a day or two.
The Easiest Way to Skin a Salmon
Have the fishmonger do it.
OK, so we got the salmon for this dish from Trader Joe's. It was
frozen sockeye salmon, which is really good for this sandwich
you go with it or king salmon as they are the fattier of the salmons
you will find. Salmon also is pretty good even when flash frozen.
It was 'skin on.' While we usually do leave the skin on our salmon
(even in recipes that say
to skin it, we like eating crispy salmon skin), that doesn't really
work for a sandwich. But with the right tools, it really is pretty easy
to skin a salmon. (Having the right tools always makes a big
In this case you want a long, thin, flexible blade. There are knives
made just for salmon, but you don't have to go that far as you really
have a nice boning knife in your tool (we mean knife) drawer. The one
we use was purchased at a county fair a long time ago for about $10 and
it works just fine. Remember to using a honing steel on all knives, it
makes a big difference.
Take the knife and just start to peel the skin away. Use a
towel paper to grasp on to the skin you've just exposed then lay the
knife flat against the skin, pressing the flat side down against the
cutting board, then work your way across the fish until it is skinned.
A good knife makes this a really simple task.
How to Chop a Salmon
(and a whole bunch of
lot of people would grind the salmon for this dish in a food
Don't get us wrong, we love food processors and we baby one really old
one that was the very first ever released (a Robot Coupe, circa 1980).
But you can
reduce a whole lot of things to mush really quickly and we don't think
that's a good idea for this dish. Besides, since you can quickly chop
the salmon with a couple of knives (we used two inexpensive Chinese
cleavers) then the only cleanup are the two knives. It's
almost faster and
at probably more satisfying, not to mention taking out your aggression
on the fillets. We chopped with a quick up and down motion with both
hands and it really was chopped fine in about a minute.
Most salmon patty recipes call for some sort of binder in the form of
bread crumbs. The amount varies widely. Some recipes also call for an
egg or two, or maybe just egg white. Then there is a recipe from Daniel
Gritzer at Serious Eats
(a website we like a lot) where there are no binders at all.
We fall into the no binder group since it should allow more
of the fish flavor to come through. But, you have to be careful. In Mr.
Gritzer's recipe, he has you squeeze the patties in your hand to get
them to hold together. In our technique we use a ring mold (well, an
old crab can) to make evenly weighted round patties. Either way you
need to get it to come together as well as possible as they will have a
tendency to fall apart when cooking if you aren't careful. But, even if
they do, once you press them into the sandwich, nobody will ever know.
You can check out the Serious
recipe for pictures on their technique.
Japanese Panko is all the rage these days, and for good reason. The
general answer you get from a quick search is that the biggest
difference between panko and regular bread crumbs is that they are made
from bread without crusts. But that doesn't tell the half of it.
Instead of being cooked in a regular oven they are actually cooked by a
direct application of electrical current via metal plates. (Huh?) Then
they are put through special grating screens which create crispy jagged
pieces. Hardly what you would call crumbs. They can end up making your
dish a lot crispier and crunchier. If you've had Tonkatsu (a Japanese
Pork Cutlet), you've seen how that all comes out.
We are partial to the Kikkoman brand of Panko as the ingredients state:
WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, YEAST, SALT. There are other brands that contain
high fructose corn syrup and/or partially hydrogenated oils and who
knows what else.
By the way, "Panko Bread Crumbs" is a tautology. Panko means bread
crumbs in Japanese.
Al Pastor/BBQ Flavor
1/2 cup of store bought BBQ sauce (We
used Sweet Baby Ray's since it was on hand from Costco)
2 TB pineapple juice or 1 TB frozen
concentrated pineapple juice + 1 TB water
2 TB lime juice
2 TB fresh cilantro chopped
1 canned chipotle in adobo, chopped fine
1 tsp adobo from the chipotle in adobo
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound raw salmon (skin removed)
2 tablespoons freshly grated queso anejo
cheese (could substitute enchilado, or even parmesan)
1/4 cup Panko (preferred)
slightly toasted bread crumbs, optional
More Panko (preferred) or
other slightly toasted bread crumbs for coating patties
4 portions Mexican cheese, such as
oaxaca, machego, chichuchua, or substitute something like jack or even
4 pickled jalapenos, sliced, optional
4 large hamburger buns
1 large ripe avocado
4 large slices bacon
a Fresh Ripe Pineapple
1/4 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil
In a small bowl combine the BBQ sauce,
pineapple juice, lime juice, cilantro, chipotle, and adobo
and and mix well to
combine. Set aside.
Chop the salmon very finely. See
. You could use
a food processor, but be very careful not to turn it to mush. Place in
a bowl with queso anejo. the 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tablespoons of the
BBQ sauce mixture (saving the rest of the BBQ sauce mixture for
serving) and 1/4 cup of panko or bread crumbs if using
. Mix with a spoon
until just combined.
Form into 4 equally sized burgers about the size of your large buns.
HINT: We keep at hand what was a can of crab about 4" in diameter. We
cut both sides off and use it as a mold for various things like this.
We put some parchment paper on a tray, then we weighed the salmon,
divided by 4 to get the weight of a patty, tared the scale and remove
the weight of a patty and put it in the ring pressing down
firmly to bring it together. Remove the ring. Tare the scale and repeat
for the rest of the patties. OR, use the techniques referred to in the Serious Eats recipe mentioned at the top of this section
Of course you need a scale that can be 'tared'. This is really an
important tool for every kitchen. (What's "tare"? Put an empty
container on a scale. It will have weight, of course. Push the tare
button -- whatever it is on a scale that can tare
-- and it will set the scale to zero. You can now put something in the
container and know the weight without the container. And as we showed
above, you can put a bunch of stuff in a container and remove
accurately weighted portions by merely taring the scale after each
removal (it will show as a negative number). That's a cool trick.)
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours which will help hold them
Put a fair amount of the panko (or bread crumbs) on a plate or in
a large flat container. Carefully place a chilled salmon patty on the
panko and press a little. Carefully turn it over and repeat. you can
pick up some more panko and press on top. Repeat for the 4 patties,
getting as much coating all over as you can.
Put them back in the fridge.
On a grill pan or a frying pan if you don't have a grill pan (but we
suggest getting one, they're fun), heat some oil until smoking.
CAREFULLY wipe most of it off with tongs and paper towel. (This is a
tip we picked up from the amazing Chinese Cookbook writer, Fuchsia
Dunlop who does it to 'season' her carbon steel woks before each use.) Spray or
brush some oil on each side of the pineapple slices and then grill each
side until browned and tender. About 3-5 minutes per side depending on
your stove. With a paring knife remove the core,
making a pineapple ring. You could also cook the pineapple
rings in a
broiler, but we've found the grill pan is far more effective.
Mash the avocado adding salt to taste. Slice the jalapenos.
Fry up the bacon till crisp. When done cut each in half making 8
pieces. (HINT: There are a lot of theories on how to cook perfect
bacon: In the microwave between sheets of paper towel. In the oven.
Fried up in a skillet as has been done for ages, or maybe put about 1/4
cup of water in the skillet first so it cooks some and lays flat and
when the water evaporates starts to crisp up. This last one is what
we've been doing of late, but find what works for you best.)
Add oil to a large cast iron skillet (or we are real fans of the
lighter weight carbon steel pans) and heat over
medium-high heat until shimmering. VERY carefully place the salmon
the pan and cook, turning once or twice, until lightly browned on both
sides and medium-rare within (about 115 to 120°F on an
thermometer) adjusting the heat to keep things
sizzling, but not burning the panko/bread crumbs.
NOTE: We do not like our salmon overcooked and for
us it cooked it in about 2 minutes per side on our rather high heat stove. The
panko wasn't as browned as it
might get if you cook longer, but how you want your salmon done should
paramount. When we took ours out of the pan it was red/pink
inside. That's how we like it. You could play with the amount of heat
in the pan in searing the outsides to brownness, keeping the insides
more 'rare'. WARNING: they may fall apart a bit if you aren't careful,
BUT, if you get them on the bun you can press it together and nobody
will ever know.
An even better way to get browned crispy on your panko if you are not
going to cook the salmon for long is to pre-brown it. Put the
panko in a dry skillet (cast iron is really good for this) over medium
heat. Brown the panko. Don't make it REAL brown as there will be
some more browning. Be careful, once it starts to brown it can get to
dark brown or burnt pretty quickly. Have another cool pan available to
dump it in to cool it off quickly.
Toast, grill or otherwise heat the hamburger buns. Put a portion of
cheese (however much you like) on the bun top and melt by the method of your choice (broiler,
To assemble place a piece of lettuce on the bottom of a bun, then 1/4 of the
mashed avocado, then two pieces of bacon, then the jalapeno slices
to taste, then the salmon
then a ring of caramelized pineapple. Pour more BBQ sauce over each
burger and top with the melted cheese side of the bun.
The salmon sandwich alone was great but we decided to go all out for a
full fledged fancy restaurant style plate. So we made a
habanero/caramelized pineapple salsa to eat with chips and a side
of Mexican flavors.
Roasted Pineapple Salsa
This comes from the mind of Roberto Santabaňez in his book "Truly
. We wanted to have chips and dip and leafing through
we found a caramelized pineapple salsa and we thought, well that ought
to go with our salmon patty recipe. Oddly enough we didn't read the
introduction until typing this up and it turns out he explicitly said
that the salsa brings to mind tacos al pastor! Well, guess we got it
This salsa is for lovers of heat. The habanero is way up there as one
of the hottest peppers. But it doesn't just add heat to a dish, it has
a wonderful fruity flavor. You don't have to use as much as the recipe
calls for. Or, you can use more! We found that the other ingredients
moderated the heat, but we are veteran chile heads. We used to grow
them ourselves because you couldn't buy them, but now they are far more
prevalent in the groceries near us and while not cheap, you can pick up
a couple for about a dime. We didn't have have any fresh ones on hand
so used some we'd boiled in salted water and refrigerated. That also
reduced the heat some.
Be very careful in handling habaneros. Wash your hands thoroughly after
working with them. Do not touch your eyes (or any other sensitive
places on your body). You will regret it. Gloves would be a good idea.
We're old hands and know what we're doing. What? Who are we kidding! We
haven't used gloves and have paid the price--dearly. You really don't
how that feels. Do not let that deter you from using them, however.
4 1/2" thick round slices fresh pineapple
1/4 cup mild olive oil or vegetable oil (you can get away with less,
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice or more to taste
2 fresh habanero chiles, minced, including seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cook the pineapple rings as described in the Salmon Sandwich recipe
above then let cool to room temperature. Remove the core with
a paring knife then dice into pieces about 1/8". Mix the pineapple and
the rest of the ingredients in a bowl adding additional lime juice and
salt to taste.
This salsa would be really good with fish tacos, or many other tacos of
your choice or perhaps over a grilled chicken.
But we had it with tortilla chips. If you find the salsa a bit 'clunky'
for the chips, just dice the pineapple and onion smaller.
What's the best way not to eat a whole bag of tortilla chips at once?
Don't have them in the house. Guess that goes for just about anything.
But we've found a second best way that works for us. We keep a package
of corn tortillas in the freezer and when we need chips we thaw some
out (usually about 6, either leave them out a bit or about 30 seconds
in the microwave give or take) cut them
into eighths and bake them in our counter top convection oven. (You
also use a, toaster oven or just just a regular oven.) Sometimes
we'll spray them with a little cooking spray and sprinkle
salt on them before baking. Are they as good as the ones from the
store? Probably not, but they have a lot fewer calories and it means we
don't eat that whole bag besides.
We wish we could tell you how to bake them, but every oven is different
and it is a trial and error thing until you find what works best
for you. Recently our old convection oven bit the dust and we're still
trying to figure the right cooking times in our new one. For us it is
about 400 degrees with convection for about 9 minutes starting from a cold oven, then leave to
cool in oven. But it isn't totally there yet, we're still experimenting.
We did find a really
that talks about methods and how to fix what
goes wrong and we suggest you take a look at it.
Mango, Jicama and Cucumber Salad
We wanted a salad to round out our go for broke salmon sandwich plate
and had in mind one of the standard orange slices, greens and jicama
creations. The very first thing we hit when searching the 'net,
however, was a video with Martha Stewart and Rick Bayless. If you have
looked through this site you'll know we are huge Rick Bayless fans. So
once again we let fate take its course and went with the master.
We headed off to the
local Carniceria where we usually get a lot of our Hispanic goods. But
it's just a small place and they didn't have any Jicama (!).
commonly known as jicama,
jícama, Mexican yam bean, or
Mexican turnip, is the name of a
native Mexican vine, although the name most commonly refers to the
plant's edible tuberous root (adapted from Wikipedia
What you get mostly from it is crunch, but it is also a little sweet. We eventually found a really big one at a regular grocery.
1 large mango, peeled, pitted and cubed.
Jicama, about 1/2 pound, peeled and cubed
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1/2 tsp pure ground chile such as ancho or guajillo
one or two fresh limes
In a non-reactive bowl mix the mango, jicama, cucumber and chile
powder. Salt to taste. Lime juice to taste.
We wanted our salad to be part of our plate so we cubed the ingredients
accordingly. If you are playful and want to do it up like Mr. Bayless,
you'll want to cut the mango, jicama and cucumber into what he describes as "fingers" and
place into sno-cone holders, sprinkling the salt, chile and lemon juice
on top. Eat by hand. Video
and recipe here
In a regular grocery you are still apt to find something in the spice
section called chile powder that is really a combination of
things that include some sort of chile powder plus other
things like cumin and salt. This is not what we are looking for in this
recipe. In large groceries near us you can also find small plastic bags
of pure chile powder, most likely cayenne or ancho. For this recipe
you're looking for ancho. Sometimes they are in the 'Hispanic' Section,
or sometimes squirreled away in a corner somewhere or at the end of an
If you have access to dried chiles, you can get a whole bag
of dried anchos (though they might be called pasillas or even
ancho-pasilla, depending on where you live). Anchos are a dark brown
and wide at the top. In fact, ancho actually means wide. The ancho is
actually the dried version of a poblano pepper (the one probably most
often used for chile rellenos).
In any event, you can take an ancho, remove the stem, cut it open with
scissors, remove the seeds and quickly toast in a hot pan. You
just want to get a wisp of smoke, the skin will start to turn color. Be
careful not to burn it. Depending on the heat of the pan it might only
take 10 seconds or so. Let the chili cool and grind in a spice grinder.
We love to sprinkle it on other things like our 'best we've ever
tasted' tortilla soup.
e wanted to make something that
paired with Pinot Noir and the first thing that came to mind was
salmon. (The second was mushrooms.) Pinot Noir and
salmon is a classic
pairing. Nalle's classic Burgundian pinot pairs well with the
smoky chipotle and the fruitiness of the pineapple, not to mention with
the sublime taste of wild sockeye salmon.
Here are summaries
of the recipes in a .pdf you can print