Sippity Sup Delivers A Zesty Seared Salmon

by zesty on March 19, 2010 · 7 comments

Here I am cooking for you in a strange new kitchen. In the spotlight and on the spot! I say on the spot because I am standing in today for your beloved ZestyCook.

Now before go “ahhhh…” and CLICK away all disappointed. Give me a chance to explain myself. Because I understand your disappointment. I too am a fan of the Zest Man! In fact I used to lurk right here in this very kitchen, long before I ever had the guts to put my foodie-butt into the blogsphere. You see this site was an inspiration to me and one of the reasons I started Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food.

So you see, I wanna do a good job. I wanna do a Zesty  good job.  But zesty is a complex adjective. It can mean spicy. I like spicy. But knowing what I know about Cory, I need something with a bit of soupçon, something with more subtlety than the slap in the face of straight, blazing heat. I am looking for a deeper, earthier more nuanced brand of spicy zest.  So I am choosing a recipe I’ll call Zesty Seared Salmon. To “spice” it I am turning to chili powder and cinnamon. Which may seem like an odd combination to you. But, not really when you consider an amusing little fact that I am hoping will amuse you! Cinnamon and chili powder are the two most common spices found in American households.

Plus the combination is not entirely unheard of especially in Indian cuisine. So those two facts tell me that I can make a good spice rub with just these two powders and a bit of salt.

I am going to rub this combination on some gorgeous Pacific salmon fillets. These babies and their deep red flesh are the real deal. The “pinker” Atlantic farm raised salmon (that is way too common in our groceries stores) is artificially colored with chemicals.  Not only is that disgusting to think about, but Seafood Watch rates farm raised Atlantic salmon as AVOID, partly due to the atrocious manner in which it is raised. It takes three pounds of feeder fish to raise every pound of salmon. How can that be sustained very much longer? Besides the Environmental Defense Fund has issued a health advisory against farmed salmon due to “high levels of PCBs” in its flesh. I am not trying to scare you– I just want you to live long enough to come visit me at Sippity Sup!

None of this means you shouldn’t eat salmon. But when you do eat it. Go for the very best. My salmon was wild caught. Seafood Watch rates it a BEST CHOICE because Pacific “salmon are among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery itself.” Besides, when it comes to the most important factor I need in choosing salmon, wild salmon wins hands down. It simply tastes better. Need Sup! say more?

Searing fish is really one of the easiest ways I know to cook it too. I realize that there are people out there who have a bit of fear when it comes to cooking fish. If that describes you then this is a good technique to master because it is very straightforward and even a bit intuitive if you watch and pay attention.

For this particular preparation choose salmon fillets with the skin on and start by washing and drying them. Drying them well is very important in achieving that super crunchy skin that is so delicious. Wet fillets just don’t crisp up as well.


  • 1 Tsp. chili powder
  • 1?2 Tsp. cinnamon
  • 1?4 Tsp. kosher salt
  • 1?4 Tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 2 wild-caught salmon fillets with skin attached


  1. Wash and completely dry the salmon fillets.
  2. In a small bowl mix 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2-teaspoon cinnamon, and a 1/4-teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of 4 salmon fillets.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 1 scant teaspoon of sesame oil in a large sauté pan. Choose a pan that is large enough to give each fillet plenty of room.
  4. When the oil is very hot, almost smoking; add the salmon, skin side down. Cook it until the skin is very crisp, dark brown and releases easily from the pan. This should take 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Do not be tempted to check or move the fish around in the pan during this time. You will only succeed in making it stick to the pan or worse ruin your beautifully crisp skin.
  6. You will notice that the fish gets lighter and more opaque. Do not let it cook more than about 1/4 of the way through at this point. You might be worried that the rest of the fish seems quite raw, but honestly this is a good thing. Once the skin has crisped flip the fish, and cook it an additional 2 (maybe 3) minutes more.
  7. Do not let it cook all the way through. The fish will continue to cook after it leaves the pan. Your goal is a succulent flesh graduating from a rare center outwards to a crispy crackly skin.
  8. Serve the fish warm or at room temperature.
  9. ENJOY!

Zesty Tip: I promise. Though there is no reason why you can’t use a non-stick pan. I just don’t trust Teflon for some irrational reason… it’s the conspiracy theorist in me!  Another thing about searing fish is the noticeable changes it goes through as it cooks. Fatty fish like salmon will actually visibly shrink as soon as it hits the pan. Watch for this. It is key in indicating that your pan is properly heated.

I am serving mine very simply, with arugula. I am going to put the arugula raw onto the plate and top it with very hot shitake mushrooms and shallots sautéed in a little canola oil. You can also add a tiny bit of sesame oil to the pan if you like.   I say “tiny bit” and “if you like” because I want you to keep in mind what wine you choose to pair with this meal. Fish need not always be paired with white wine. The flavors you choose to accompany it however will help you decide between red and white in this case.

My brother Grant has paired it with a Pinot Noir.

Too much of the sesame flavor won’t really help this pairing. But a tiny bit does not conflict with the wine and will really round out the palate on this meal and make this a complete experience!

Zesty Here

I want to send a special thank you to Greg for a great post.  make sure you check out Sippity Sup! if you have not done so already.  Great work Greg.  Have a great weekend everybody and I will see you all on Monday.

Take care


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