You never know until you ask – that’s the lesson that my younger sister learned last night. She was in town visiting my elder sister and her young kids, and randomly sent me a message simply saying, “So, what’s for dinner?”
I don’t think she was expecting a serious answer, but instead she got “Chipotle salmon with aioli and wild rice.”
Long story short, she was over at my place half an hour later, eating the portion that would have been today’s leftovers. She was good about it, doing the whole “you can totally say no” spiel, but I wasn’t having it. I absolutely love any chance to host others for dinner, especially when that “other” is my little sister, a.k.a. the sister that cooks. She’s the sister that actually has time to cook (as in, she doesn’t have three kids under seven years of age) and she uses that time to make me feel absolutely inferior in the kitchen. As such, any chance to impress her with my culinary prowess – or at least elicit an “aw, that’s cute that you’re trying” response – is wholeheartedly welcomed.
I’m so thankful the dish turned out as well as it did, because it was a completely original recipe – a rarity for me. I usually work with a pre-existing recipe, making tweaks to measurements and swapping out ingredients as I see fit – but not this time! I had no idea if chipotle could even go with salmon, but I was determined to find out. I had the same question regarding aioli and salmon, though a quick Google search showed me that aioli and seafood sometimes mix – a good enough sign for me.
I wasn’t planning on posting this original creation, but it was too successful not to. Focused on impromptu hosting, I had no time to take any photographs. So…I had to make it again tonight. Thankfully, it’s good enough that two nights in a row is a treat, not a chore. I should also mention that the salmon itself takes only 15 minutes from start to finish. And…I should probably include the recipe as well, shouldn’t I? Well, here you go:
Brown Butter Chipotle Salmon with Spicy Aioli
- 1-1 1/2 lb. salmon fillet (preferably wild coho or sockeye)
- 4 tbsp. butter, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- freshly cracked pepper and Himalayan pink salt
- olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
- 1 lemon, halved (optional)
- 1 cup wild rice (optional; highly recommended)
- spicy aioli, for serving*
- Before you work on the salmon, get started on the rice, cooking it according to the directions on the package (making sure to add a bit of salt to the water the rice is cooking in). If serving with a different starch like potatoes, they’ll still be likely to take more time than the salmon, so get those going first.
- Once the rice is cooking, prep the salmon. Cut the fillet into 3 or 4 serving-sized pieces (skin side down), crack salt and pepper overtop of each piece, then drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands or a basting brush to ensure that each piece’s top and sides are covered in the oil. Lastly, sprinkle the chipotle powder on top of each piece (I find it works well to place the powder is a sieve and tap it like one would do for icing sugar).
- Place a braiser on a stovetop set just under medium heat, and warm 3 tbsp. of butter until it’s melted. Add the garlic and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. (Alternately, you could use a large frying pan with a slightly higher heat.)
- Next, add the salmon to the braiser, skin side down, and cook for about 5-6 minutes. While the salmon cooks, spoon the simmering liquids overtop every so often. If you want, squeeze half a lemon over the salmon during this time.
- After the 5-6 minutes, flip the salmon pieces over and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. The salmon should be finished by this point, but you may want to use a meat thermometer or cut into a single piece to check, cooking skin side down for an additional minute or two if necessary. (Salmon should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.)
- Remove the salmon from the braiser. If you choose to remove the skin from the fish, wait 2-3 minutes until it’s had a chance to cool slightly, then peel back the skin on each individual piece (don’t worry, it’s easy to do at this point).
- At this time, you’ll be waiting for the rice to finish up. If you have to wait more than 10 minutes, make sure to wrap the salmon in tin foil once it’s cooled down slightly (you want to keep it warm, but not so hot that it continues to cook).
- Once the rice is cooked, remove from heat, stir in the remaining tbsp. of butter, and season carefully with additional salt if necessary.
- Serve the salmon over the wild rice, topping with spicy aioli and garnishing with slices of leftover lemon. You can also choose to squeeze some fresh lemon juice overtop at this point in time if you didn’t earlier (or if you’re just crazy about lemons).
- Taste your creation, marveling at the flavour combinations and how well they bond with each other and your mouth.
* I used Anna’s Country Kitchen Spicy Italian Aoli [sic], a Canadian product. Anna may not know how to spell Aioli, but she sure knows how to make it taste amazing