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Thursday, June 8, 2006 09:49 pm

Fish gone wild

Recipe for salmon steaks and a side of roasted broccoli

Every May, there’s a big homecoming in Alaska, and everyone and his mother in the lower 48 wants an invitation. From now until the kids go back to school, the cold waters of the Copper River are chockfull of returning salmon preparing for their upstream spawning and egg-laying ritual. Meanwhile, we mere mortals in places where wild Atlantic salmon has gone the way of the eight-track tape wait with bated breath for the first arrival of the most glorious, gorgeous, rhubarb-colored piscatorial flesh on earth. With names such as “chinook” (a.k.a. king), “chum,” “coho (a.k.a. silver),” “pink,” and “sockeye,” Alaska salmon is like a royal family that temporarily opens the palace to the masses to show them a taste of the good life. And because its ruby-pink meat is rich and flavor-intense, the wild salmon needs little dressing up in the kitchen and will shine even with a spritz of salt, pepper, and olive oil. The recipe that accompanies this column takes the cook on a spice route, as if that salmon were on a magic carpet ride to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Included is how-to for roasted broccoli, which cooks while you work on the fish and marries beautifully as a salmon sidekick. But, please, before you dance your way to the seafood counter, I must warn you that early-season prices are the highest I’ve ever seen — about $30 per pound. If this is more the stuff of Marie Antoinette than fodder for your shopping cart, consider the more modest farmed arctic char. And now, let us eat Chinook.

Spice-Rubbed Salmon and Roasted Broccoli
Ingredients Salmon For 1 pound wild-salmon steaks (alternatively, use same amount of arctic char), make a rub of the following: Clove of garlic, peeled and smashed with a knife 1-inch piece of fresh peeled gingerroot, sliced into  quarter-size pieces 1 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon coriander 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or paprika 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt Juice of half a lime 1 tablespoon olive oil
Broccoli 1 pound broccoli florets, separated 1-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and diced Clove of garlic, peeled, smashed with a knife, and minced 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoons cayenne or paprika 1 tablespoon olive oil Black pepper to taste
Instructions Place fish in a nonreactive dish (e.g., ceramic, glass, enamel) and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, pound garlic and ginger until pulverized (alternatively, puree in a food processor). Add rest of rub ingredients and stir until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scoop out rub and spread evenly over fish on both sides and let marinate for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all broccoli ingredients in a mixing bowl and, with your hands, mix to combine until broccoli is well coated. Place on a baking sheet and put it the oven. Roast until tender with a fork, about 15 minutes. Let broccoli rest while you cook the fish. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to cover the surface, and then add fish. Reduce heat to medium and allow fish to sear, about 3 minutes. With tongs or a fish or regular spatula, turn fish onto other side and place skillet in the oven to finish cooking. Check for desired doneness after five minutes. Remove from oven and serve with broccoli.
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