Monday, November 9, 2015

26. Salmon Tacos with Asparagus Pilaf and Roasted Yellow Pepper-Lemon Cream Sauce


This recipe almost didn't happen.  I made them the night before I had to leave town for a vocal jazz festival.  I really wasn't in the mood to shop, so I decided to stick with ingredients that we already had in the house.  I found some asparagus, a yellow pepper, and some frozen salmon.  I figured something good could come from that, right?  I also had some leftover fresh herbs, so I tried to work them all in there, too.  This recipe became creativity in action!  On a Wednesday!  I probably should have been packing for my trip.  Whatever.

What to do with the asparagus?  I didn't want to just put asparagus spears in the taco.  That seemed too obvious and unexciting.  I decided to try shredding them in the food processor and then lightly saute them to make a mock "pilaf".  I suppose it can't be a real pilaf without rice, right?

When Steve asked what kind of tacos we were having and I said, "Asparagus and salmon," he just said . . . "Oh."  Ha ha.  Well.  We can't have steak tacos every night, now can we?

Salmon is great cooked in a stovetop smoker, but since I've recently used the smoker in recipes 25 (portobello tacos) and 20 (tuna tacos), I decided to revisit the poaching method that I used in my last salmon recipe, which was number three.  That worked out well.

These were definitely different than anything I have made so far!  Here's the recipe:

Salmon Tacos with Asparagus Pilaf and Roasted Yellow Pepper-Lemon Cream Sauce

Serves 2 to 3 (4 to 6 generous tacos) 


For the cream sauce:

1 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, seeded, peeled, and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

For the salmon:

2 salmon fillets, about 12-14 oz.
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup bottled clam juice or vegetable stock
A few springs each of fresh thyme and marjoram
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Additional salt and pepper to taste

For the asparagus pilaf:

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 lb. asparagus 
1 medium carrot, peeled
1/2 tsp. chopped thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. chopped marjoram
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 to 6 multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)

Chopped chives, for garnish


1.  Make the sauce:  Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and yellow pepper.  Cook and stir for another minute or so.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.  Add the cream and salt.  Cook at a low simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add the lemon juice and zest and blend with a hand blender until smooth.

Keep warm over very low heat.

2.  Cook the salmon:  Place the chopped onion, wine, clam juice or stock, herbs, salt, and pepper in a medium skillet.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the salmon, skin side down.  Season the top of the salmon with salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat to very low and cover.  Cook the salmon until just done, about 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your salmon fillets.  Keep an eye on it - it's very easy to overdo it!  Remove from the heat and set aside, keeping it mostly covered.

3.  Make the asparagus:  Snap the woody ends off of the asparagus spears and discard them.  Cut about 3/4 to 1 inch of the tips off and set aside.  Using a food processor with the grater/shredder attachment, shred the asparagus and the carrot.  Heat the olive oil in the medium skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the shredded asparagus and carrot, the reserved asparagus tips, and the herbs and cook until the vegetable are just tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm while you prepare the tortillas.

4.  When the squash is almost done, prepare the tortillas.  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Pull some salmon flakes from one of the fillets and add to the tortilla.  Top with a small amount of the asparagus mixture.  Drizzle with some of the yellow pepper sauce and finish with a sprinkle of chives.  Enjoy!

Well, what was the verdict for these unusual salmon tacos?  It was mixed, actually.  I liked them and Steve didn't.

We both agreed that the sauce was really good.  It would be great on other things, too - I could see it making a fantastic pasta sauce!

I accidentally overcooked the salmon just a bit!  It would have been better if I had taken it off the heat a minute or two earlier.  That's easy to do with so many things going on at the same time.  

I think the asparagus "pilaf" was the main reason our vote was split.  I thought it was really good!  Steve just couldn't get past the idea of asparagus in a taco.  He usually likes asparagus, but it apparently did not work for him in this situation.  Oh, well.  I happen to think I just invented a really cool thing to do with asparagus.  :)

I do like these hybrid corn-wheat tortillas, but I don't know if they were the best choice for this taco.  They have a nutty quality that was just the tiniest bit distracting.  Next time, I might choose plain flour tortillas.  The potato pancake shells that I used in recipe three would definitely be delicious, but a lot more work.  

I wasn't disappointed with these.  If you like the ingredients, you'll like them!  I wouldn't call this my favorite recipe so far, but it's a pretty solid fish dinner in a taco!

Please feel free to comment!  What do you think of this idea?  Does it sound good or weird?  Or both, perhaps?  Thanks for reading!  On to the next one!  :)


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