Fennel Crusted Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce

Who says you can’t have red wine with fish? Not me. The sauce is a perfect foil to the rich sauce. Buy the best quality balsamic you can afford. It makes a big difference in the flavor of the sauce. The best balsamics have no added ingredients and should be from Modena, Italy; with no added caramel. I love the textures in this dish as much as the flavors. The crunchy crumbly topping and the perfectly crisp salmon skin are a wonderful contrast to the silky texture and rich flavor of the salmon. You could serve this salmon on a puree of Yukon Gold potatoes. I like to serve the same wine used in the sauce, a pinot noir from Carneros or Russian River in California would be perfect.

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon grated zest of lemon (about 1 lemon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
24-ounce salmon fillets preferably Alaskan wild with the skin on

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups pinot noir wine
1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. In a spice grinder, grind (coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) the fennel seeds and peppercorns. In a small bowl, mix the ground spices with the lemon zest, salt, and bread crumbs. Spread all of the bread crumb mixture over the fillet of salmon and cut into 4 equal pieces.

2. For the sauce use a 10-inch non-stick saute pan, place the sugar and cook over medium heat. Shake and swirl the pan to mix the sugar so it melts evenly. Cook until it is a deep amber almost brown. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. If it burns it will be bitter, it is best to start over with a new pan and more sugar.

3. Using a whisk carefully stir in the pinot noir wine and stir until the caramel has dissolved. (If the sugar hardened when you added the wine, just keep stirring over medium heat. It will eventually dissolve.) Return to the heat, add the rosemary sprig and cook over high heat stirring regularly until the sauce had reduced to about one-half cup and is thick like syrup. Discard the rosemary sprig.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat an oven proof skillet over medium-high heat until it very hot. Add the salmon pieces skin side down at least 1-inch apart and cook for one minute. Place in the oven and cook for about 9 minutes (the internal temperature of the salmon should be 140 degrees).

5. Just before serving reheat the sauce gently over medium heat, add the balsamic vinegar use a whisk to mix well. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter. Continue to whisk until the butter is completely emulsified into the sauce. (Make sure the sauce isn’t too hot so the oil doesn't separate out of the butter.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Place a piece of salmon in the center of each heated dinner plate. Drizzle the pinot noir sauce around the salmon and a little on top of the salmon.

©Julie Logue-Riordan 2009

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie