A Vietnamese-inspired sauce livens up salmon fillets in this example of Boston culinary authority Christopher Kimball’s style of cooking with seasonings from around the world.
His new cookbook, Milk Street Tuesday Nights (Little, Brown/Hachette, $45.50), from his new cooking school offers more than 200 of his recipes, beginning with chapters of dishes he calls fast, faster or fastest.
With years spent heading America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated, Kimball speaks with authority when he states: “This is how the world cooks.”
He calls the fashion for once-exotic ingredients “a watershed moment” for North American cooks. His pantry staples include harissa, tahini, pomegranate molasses, salsas, chili paste and vinegars.
Try to get Thai basil for this dish, as it packs more punch than the usual Italian basil, Kimball advises.
Glazed Salmon with Chili-Basil Sauce
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chili-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons (30 mL) packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) fish sauce
2 teaspoons (10 mL) soy sauce
2 teaspoons (10 mL) cornstarch
3 tablespoons (45 mL) grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely grated fresh gingerroot
1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed to the lower 6 inches (15 cm), dry outer layers discarded, minced
2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
½ cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil, plus 1 tablespoon (15 mL) thinly sliced basil
4 centre-cut 6-ounce (170 g) salmon fillets, 1 to 1-1/4 inches (3 cm) thick
Kosher or coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
With oven rack in the middle, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). In a small bowl, stir together 2/3 cup (150 mL) water with the chili-garlic sauce, sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce until sugar dissolves. In a cup, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) water.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the oil until shimmering. Stir in ginger and lemon grass and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the chili-garlic sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine it, and then stir it into the sauce.
Reduce heat to to medium-low and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about three minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and the ½ cup (125 mL) basil. Cover to keep warm.
Season fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch (30 cm) oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oil until barely smoking. Add fish, flesh side down, lower heat to medium and cook until golden brown, about four minutes, without turning.
Transfer pan of fish to the preheated oven and cook until the thickest parts of the fillets register 115 degrees F to 120 degrees F (46 to 49 C) on an instant read thermometer, or are nearly opaque when pierced with a knife, four to six minutes.
Remove from oven, carefully peel skin from fillets and serve, browned side up, on heated plates. Pour half the sauce over the fish, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) basil, and serve with the remaining sauce.