Mustard-Baked Salmon with Cranberry Sauce
February 16, 2010 § 1 Comment
I hope everyone had a fabulous Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend! And now it’s Mardi Gras! It’s like holidays on parade! I was lucky enough to get to take the long weekend and head into the woods of New Hampshire to hike and camp with friends. It was a weekend of wood fires, poetry, windy mountaintops, snowshoes, and the occasional glissade down an icy rock face with only ice axes to direct where we were sliding and keep us from careening over a cliff. Wahoo! It was pretty sweet.
Anyway, I adore being out in the woods. But after I get back home from a string of days in the forest eating mostly trail mix, bread and cheese, and other highly packable foods, I find myself desperately wanting, well a shower first of all, but then some really fresh and healthy feeling food. Which, in my world, most often translates as fish and vegetables.
I remember in talking about cooking with cranberries before, I speculated that salmon with mustard and a cranberry compote might be good. And, I still had some cooked, smashed sweetened cranberries – ie. a basic cranberry sauce – from making cranberry syrup a while ago, which were still perfectly good (I think cranberry sauce may actually keep for all eternity if it needs to!). So, I decided to give the salmon concept a try.
Wow, did it ever work! Why are sweetened cranberries so good paired with salty savory things? Something about their sweet, tart, tangy flavor just takes to savory flavors like mustards and onions like a Norwegian takes to excessive patriotism during the winter Olympics (which is a lot!). I coated the salmon with mustard, after stirring a bit of melted butter into the mustard to make it a little more spreadable, smooth tasting, and in hopes this would help it brown up well in the oven. I cooked onions to go in the cranberry sauce because I didn’t want it just to be sweet, and I kind of can’t imagine a meal that doesn’t involve cooking onions. Then on a whim, I decided to cook down some balsamic vinegar with the onions before adding the cranberries because the vinegar’s sweet-tangy richness is similar to but less fruity than cranberries’, and I thought it might nicely boost the flavor of the sauce. Plus, from making countless vinaigrettes, I generally work under the assumption that if there is mustard in something you can’t really go wrong to add balsamic vinegar as well. The results were sumptuously delicious! This would have totally made a show stopping main course for Valentine’s Day. Except, I really don’t recommend taking raw fish out hiking.
Mustard-Baked Salmon with Cranberry Sauce (serves 2)
- 2 small salmon fillet pieces or 1 larger piece, totaling about .75 pounds
- A large scoop (a few Tablespoons) of mustard
- A Tablespoon or two of butter, melted
- A few big spoonfuls (1/3 cup, maybe) of whole berry cranberry sauce (or lingonberry jam if you’re a good Scandinavian and have it around – it turns out lingonberry jam is what a friend uses in a similar recipe that I believe must have been where I got the idea).
- One small onion, chopped (or a shallot, or a leek, or any onion substitute, really)
- A couple Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or another sweet vinegar like apple orother fruit)
- Heat your oven to 425˚F. Place salmon pieces in a baking dish. Stir together the mustard and butter until smooth, then spread over the non-skin side of the salmon fillets. Sprinkle with ground pepper, then roast in the oven until the salmon flakes easily with a fork in the thickest part, around 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick the fillets are.
- Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, and add the onions. Sautee until softened, about five minutes, then pour on some balsamic vinegar. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the vinegar’s liquid has evaporated, a couple of minutes. Then stir in the cranberry sauce and allow to heat for a minute. Turn the sauce to low to keep warm until the salmon is cooked. Serve the salmon pieces with the cranberry sauce on top accompanied by lots of vegetables and a nice salad and perhaps some potatoes if you’re so inclined.