Crispy Salmon with Green Curry Spinach
by Nik Sharma
Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques + Plant Science for Big Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals by Nik Sharma. © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books
My aunt Elaine is a firm believer that salmon should not be used in curries because it becomes unpleasantly firm, unlike many other fish. But what if the salmon is cooked separately and served on the side? This recipe might be tailored for my aunt, but you will enjoy it too. Coconut rice (see Cashew + Bell Pepper Chicken with Coconut Rice, page 295) or plain rice are both excellent options to serve alongside.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
In a large cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 2 Tbsp drained capers. Sauté until crispy and lightly golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes.
Add 1 large red onion, minced. Sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp green curry paste and 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced. Sauté until fragrant, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add, a handful at a time, 1 lb [455 g] fresh baby spinach. Sauté, tossing, until the leaves are completely wilted and most of the liquid evaporates, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 1 cup [120 g] fresh or frozen peas, 1 cup [240 ml] unsweetened coconut milk, ½ cup [120 ml] water, and ½ tsp ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the peas turn tender, 1½ to 2 minutes.
Stir in 1 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice and 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce. Taste and season with fine sea salt. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Use clean paper towels to pat dry four 6 oz skin-on salmon fillets. Season on both sides with fine sea salt and ground black pepper.
In a large cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp unsalted butter. Cook until the butter stops crackling and its water evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. Place the salmon fillets on the hot pan, skin side down. Cook without moving the fillets (if moved before the skin is fully cooked, the flesh can easily tear away from the skin). After the first 5 minutes of cooking, tilt the skillet toward you and use a large spoon to collect the oil in the pan and pour it over the fish fillets. Cook until the skin starts to turn golden brown and crispy on the sides, another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked fish from the pan to a plate. Serve with the spinach and garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro or microgreens like arugula or kale.
THE COOK’S NOTES
- The milk proteins in the butter will help the fish skin cook well and also release easily. The proteins bind to the metal surface of the pan, creating a nonstick surface that will help the fish slide off with ease after cooking.
- If you don’t eat fish, make a batch of the Bok Choy and Crispy Tofu (page 166) and serve it on top of the curry. Seared slices of tempeh or fried eggplant are also wonderful options here.
- There are several terrific brands of Thai curry paste available online and in grocery stores. One of my favorites is the Mekhala brand of curry pastes (they’re vegan!).
- I sometimes add chunks of squash like pumpkin and other cucurbits like chayote to this curry.
About Nik Sharma
Nik Sharma is the author, photographer, and recipe developer behind Nik Sharma Cooks/A Brown Table and The Flavor Files Substack newsletter. He has appeared on the shows Chefs Secrets: The Science of Cooking (PBS), The Road to Cooking, and the upcoming series, Confluence (PBS). Nik’s work has garnered multiple awards from Saveur, Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, and the American Food Journalism Awards. His first book, Season, was a James Beard- and IACP awards finalist. His second cookbook, The Flavor Equation, was a James Beard Award, IACP Award, and British Guild of Food Writers Award finalist and winner of the silver medal at the German Academy of Gastronomy. He lives in Los Angeles. His third cookbook, Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques, and Plant Science for Big Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Mealsis out October 24 and available to pre-order.