Even if you are rusty in the kitchen or you avoid it all together, this is a technique that can be easily mastered. Guys, make this for your special girl on Valentine’s Day. I mean this dish even comes in it’s own gift wrap. How perfect is that?
This is one of my favorite cooking techniques, because it is so ridiculously easy! You are literally putting things into a pouch and cooking it. That’s it. I use it all the time to poach fish and chicken. The oven allows you to control the temperature throughout the cooking process, which makes for consistently moist meat. Simple AND consistent. What’s not to love?
This extremely versatile technique works with many different flavor combinations. Here we are starting with a very traditional Japanese combination of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, a sweet rice wine that is an essential condiment in Japanese cuisine. But to really take this marinade to the next level, I wanted to add some brightness. Since I was striving for subtlety, lemongrass, ginger, and shallots came to mind. If you have never used lemongrass before, you are missing out. The smell and taste of this tough grass is at once intoxicatingly singular, yet also strangely familiar. It will infuse your dish with a soft citrus flavor and also bring a complex exotic flair that is entirely its own.
I like to eat the salmon with a little bowl of white rice, preferably the sticky kind; but I do like rice with everything and I get rice cravings. Yes, there is totally such a thing. It really is perfect as is, but some rice never hurts.
D A S H I P O A C H E D S A L M O N
1 stalk lemongrass
1 shallot, roughly sliced
1 1/2 inch numb ginger peeled, sliced, and smashed
2 cups niban dashi stock
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Alaska salmon fillets, 7-8 ounces each *
1/3 pound maitake/hen-of-the-woods mushrooms **
1/3 cup tender sugar snap peas
Prep the lemongrass by cutting off the root and the top 1/4 of the stalk. Then peel off the tough outer layers. Once you get to the tender inner layers, use a rolling pin to bruise it. This will help release the lovely oils (watch this). Finally, tie it into a loose knot.
In a pot large enough to fit the salmon fillets, combine the shallot, ginger, niban dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and lemongrass. Set over high heat. Once the liquid comes to a boil, simmer for 8-10 minutes. Make sure to give it a taste and make any adjustments you need. Once the liquid is fully cooled, put the salmon fillets in. Marinate for about 15 minutes, flipping over halfway through the time.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. While this is happening, prep the mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Maitake mushrooms usually don’t require much cleaning. Use a kitchen towel to gently remove any dirt you see. Break the mushrooms up into fairly large sections. Snap off the ends of the peas. I like to cut the peas on a diagonal, so they are super pretty when sprinkled on top of the salmon.
In an oven safe pan, lay two pieces of parchment paper one on top of the other. Make sure the paper is large enough to comfortably fit the salmon fillets. If you want to cook the servings separately, you can also do two pouches. Fill the pouch first with all of the solid ingredients from the marinade. Then make an even bed with the mushrooms and lay the salmon on top. Finally top off with the liquid until it comes to about 3/4 of the way up the salmon. Bring all sides of the parchment paper together and tightly seal using some kitchen twine.
Cook the salmon on the middle rack for 16 to 20 minutes. I would start to check for doneness at 16 minutes. Many people check by poking a knife or thermometer into the middle of the fish. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? If you aren’t super careful, all those wonderful juices will leak out AND you just poked a hole in the middle of the fish! I like to use the touch test (read this). This is also super handy for other meats. Medium is good here. If the salmon isn’t quite done, reseal and cook a bit longer 1 minute at a time. Keep in mind that even after you take it out of the oven, the salmon will continue to cook a bit further.
Bring the whole pouch to the table. Discard the lemongrass. In two shallow bowls, serve the fish with the mushrooms and the tasty liquid. Make sure to top off with the crunchy sugar snap peas.
*ask your fishmonger to remove the skin for you
**shiitakes or oyster mushrooms would be great here also