It may not be from the Mediterranean, but this beautiful, Norwegian salmon is a favorite here at Cerines. Why? Here in the Eastern Mediterranean, the water is so salty and relatively warm that only a few large fish are native to its waters and fresh Mediterranean tuna is available only for a short time. Shellfish are practically non-existent and most shrimp is commercially farmed. All this beautiful water surrounding Cyprus and the fruits of the sea are few and far between, though calamari, octopus and cuttlefish are plentiful.
Here at cerines.com, you’ll find a common thread among the food choices: recipes made with locally-sourced ingredients, drawing from what’s available in season at the local market, highlighting dishes that are found throughout the Mediterranean. This is a mantra that we follow in our Weekly Menu and something that we carry over to The Cerines Supper Club. Sometimes we allow ourselves to deviate from this approach. Salmon is one of these treats.
Salmon is really versatile and the taste changes depending on how its cooked. We’ve poached a whole salmon the English way, wrapped boneless salmon steaks en papillote the French way, grilled bone-in salmon steaks the American way. Gravet lax, salt-cured salmon the Norwegian way, is on the bucket list. Our favorite way to eat salmon is by far in filet form. No bones, no hassle (even though they’re big so it’s hard to accidentally swallow them).
Our preferred way to prepare this wonderful fish is to stick it under our infrared professional-grade broiler. While you may not have one of these at home, most commercial-grade ovens have a grilling feature on the top of the oven that produces similar results. What is the benefit to cooking like this? The heat is directed downwards, searing the top. The outer portion cooks first and, with the heat so intense, it ends up virtually steaming the interior. What you get is a crispy top exterior with a supple and smooth interior. Thick salmon responds best to this cooking method, whereas baking it outright tends to dried it out.
We’ve been making salmon this way for years. Lightly seasoned, add in a few capers and stick it under the broiler. That’s it. For thick pieces, ten minutes and you’re at the table. We recently discovered this improved recipe quite by accident. Ioanna was adamant that we serve this at our Supper Club and I balked as it was not Mediterranean. Compromise won out, and I figured that the capers, those elegant little preserved buds of the caper bush, were a Mediterranean flavor. What else? Inspiration came from the generous amount of coarsely-ground black pepper that dots the surface. I tested out pink peppercorns, from the mastic tree, and it was an instant success. The just-spicy and mildly-sweet peppercorns develop a wonderfully smoky flavor under the broiler, with some of the pink color surviving the broiling method. Together with the salty capers and spicy pepper, it is perfect.
Broiled Boneless Salmon Steak
You can cook the seasoned filet as is or choose to cut the filet into steaks. This results in each piece cooking more evenly as the heat can reach the sides of the steaks, avoiding over-cooking.
PREPARATION OF SALMON
•Clean a whole filet of salmon, making sure it is free of any bones. Run your clean hand down the length of the filet to feel any bones. Remove any bones with a tweezer.
•With a long, thin knife that has just been sharpened, slice the filet into equal portions. Leave the ends a bit larger to accommodate for lack of thickness. Do not remove skin.
Preheat broiler or oven grill. Place boneless steaks on a broiler pan or suitable baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Season each steak with:
Coarsely-ground black pepper
coarse sea salt
In a mortar and pestle, lightly crush:
2 T. pink peppercorns
Sprinkle evenly over the seasoned steaks. Place directly under pre-heated broiler and cook for no more than 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove smaller, thinner pieces in the last few minutes of cooking to avoid drying out.
Allow steaks to rest for a minute. Tuck a thin spatula between the fish and the tough skin, gently lifting off the salmon steak. (The skin will have stuck to the surface below.)
Garnish each piece with:
a wedge of lemon or a sprig of parsley