Wednesday, May 17th, 2017...12:17 pm

Salmon Mi-Cuit Donburi

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After the last month or two of stops and starts, it seems like summer is finally upon us in all its full and blazing (and intermittently armageddon-y) glory. And I don’t know how many of you are lucky enough to have air-conditioned kitchens, but my kitchen has this horrendous habit of amplifying the weather outside; in the winter, it’s a veritable ice box and I’m usually found shuffling around in house slippers and a giant hoodie at the crack of dawn when I’ve got to feed my starters, but in the summer I keep getting panic attacks that I’ve left the stove or the oven on without realising it because DAMN SON IT BE HOT IN HURRRR.

Which is why I’m so freaking pleased with myself for this dish I came up with. It’s part donburi, part poke bowl, but makes use of one of my favourite ever Chefsteps techniques for salmon mi-cuit – where a combination of brining, gentle heat, and a 6-hour chill ensures that you are treated to fish that’s got a velvety texture unlike any other salmon preparation. Aside from a couple of minutes here and there assembling your brine, bagging fish and dropping it into a water bath, or starting your rice cooker, you barely spend any time at all in the kitchen, and none of it is in front of a hot stove or oven.

Salmon and avocado is also one of those pretty classic combinations, but one I’ve never actually been that big a fan of. To me, both have a fairly similar creamy, buttery mouthfeel and flavour, which usually ends up being too much of a good thing. To combat this, I douse the avocado in a generous bath of freshly squeezed lime juice for a very welcome hit of acidity, and a threw in some quick-pickled cucumber chunks a la Momofuku.

The first time I made this dish, I put together a super quick dressing of more fresh lime juice, a little honey, some fish sauce and a splash of sesame oil, but I’ve since shifted in favour of an even more convenient sauce – yuzu ponzu. I like this one by Mizkan, which you should be able to pick up at any good Japanese supermarket, but otherwise mixing your own dressing won’t take you more than a couple of minutes either. I also thought about charring the avocado halves on a grill before tossing them in lime, but then my kitchen overheated and I overheated and if any of you have the wherewithal to try it, do let me know how that works out, I feel like the smoky flavours would add a lovely complexity to the super clean and fresh tasting fish.

And whatever you do, do NOT skimp on the shredded scallion garnish. It’s much less of a garnish and more an integral part of this dish – the freshness and bite they provide to this dish, to me, really made it come together.

Salmon Mi-Cuit Donburi

For the salmon
200g salmon fillet, without skin and pinboned
250g very warm water
50g fine sea salt
25g caster sugar
250g ice
olive oil, as needed

For the quick pickled cukes
1-2 small japanese cucumbers
5g fine sea salt
5g caster sugar

To serve
1 small ripe avocado (about 100g flesh)
juice of 1 lime
about 2 cups cooked Japanese rice
yuzu ponzu sauce
white and black sesame seeds
scallions, julienned on a sharp bias

First, prep your salmon. Preheat your immersion circulator to 40ºC. Make your brine by dissolving the salt and sugar in water. To speed things up, I like to heat half the total amount of water (250g in this case), whisk the salt and sugar in to dissolve, then cool the brine down rapidly by melting another 250g of ice into it. Ensure all the ice is melted and give it one more stir before you proceed.

While the brine is chilling, remove any skin from your salmon (if you take it off in one clean piece, you could also crisp it up and crumble it over the top of this dish!), and remove any pin bones. You can also divide it into 2 x 100g fillets at this point if you prefer – I find it easier to slice it before cooking. Brine the salmon for 60 minutes in the fridge, using a small dish to keep it submerged if it floats.

After 60 minutes, remove the salmon from the brine, pat it dry, and bag each piece separately with a small amount of olive oil (just enough to keep it from from sticking to the bag). Cook the salmon, sous vide, for 40 minutes, then immediately transfer to an ice bath to chill down, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. If vacuum bagged and kept below 4ºC, the salmon can be made 7-10 days in advance.

10-15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, make the quick pickles. For this dish, I like cutting my cucumbers into quarters lengthwise, and then chopping them up into roughly 5-7mm chunks, i.e. similar in size to how I’ll be dicing my avocado. Combine the salt and sugar, then toss the cucumber chunks in the salt-sugar mix and allow to macerate for 10 minutes. Taste a piece – if it’s too salty, give the cukes a quick rinse in cold tap water, and drain well.

Halve, pit, and dice the avocado. If desired, avocado halves can also be grilled, cut side down, before dicing. Dress in lime juice, and reserve for assembly.

To assemble, fluff about a cup of cooked Japanese short grain rice in the bottom of a deep bowl. Scatter over a scant teaspoon of toasted white sesame seeds. Remove the salmon from the bag, and – using a single stroke with a very thin and sharp knife – slice each fillet into about 4-5 large chunks. Evenly distribute the fish over the rice. Scatter the cucumber and avocado evenly around the salmon, drizzle with about 1 tbsp of yuzu ponzu, top with a very generous mountain of julienned scallion, and scatter more white and black sesame seeds over to garnish.

Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 2.

Macros: For those of you who’ve been keeping track of my #whosaysdietfoodismiserable adventures on instagram, and are interested in the nutritional info for this dish, I used 100g coho salmon, 50g (uncooked) Japanese rice, 3g sesame seeds and about 2 tsp lime juice for one serving, for roughly 28P/52C/15F. Going forward, you’ll be able to find all the recipes where I’ve included per serving macro breakdowns in this new category. ;)

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