Blackened Wild Salmon


This dish isn't charred. Instead, it's "blackened" with spices.

It's a healthy alternative to charring meats, which creates cancer-causing compounds like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs.

I grind whole spices as I need them whenever I can to ensure the freshest flavors and the most medicinal benefits. Here I combined peppercorns, dried thyme leaves, cumin seeds, dried lime zest, and coarse sea salt with ground paprika.

I used smoked paprika and smoked sea salt to give this dish a grilled flavor, even though I made it on the stove top. (Smoking chili peppers and sea salt doesn't create the same carcinogens as smoking meat and fish.)

This recipe is incredibly versatile. I used lime because I had some dried zest on hand and because it goes so well with fish. You can use fresh organic lime zest instead of dried lime zest, or substitute citrus sea salt for the lime zest and smoked sea salt.

If you don't have dried thyme, use dried oregano or rosemary. If you don't have dried chipotle, use any other dried chili pepper or substitute red pepper flakes.

1 dried chipotle chili pepper, cut into pieces with a kitchen shears
1 dried Thai bird chili pepper (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tbsp mixed peppercorns
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp smoked sea salt or other sea salt
1 tsp cumin seeds (or substitute 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
Wild salmon fillet(s) cut into 4- to 6-ounce portions
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Fresh lemon or lime wedges for serving

Add the chipotle, peppercorns, thyme, paprika, sea salt, cumin seeds, and lime zest to an electric grinder. Grind until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle.

Place a tablespoon or two of the mixture on a large plate and gently swirl it around to evenly distribute the seasoning. Place the fish fillets on the plate (skin side up) to pick up the spices, then transfer them to a plate (seasoned side up) and rub the mixture into the fish to coat one surface thoroughly. Set the fish aside to absorb the seasoning and come to room temperature before cooking.

You can do this step several hours ahead but transfer the fish to the fridge if it will be more than an hour before you cook them. Remember to take them out of the fridge in advance to come to room temperature when you do cook them.

When you're ready to cook the salmon, warm the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or stainless steel over medium heat. Once hot, add the salmon, seasoned side down. (If the skillet isn't hot when you add the salmon, it will stick.) Cook until the fish is crispy and lifts away easily from the skillet, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Flip the salmon, cover the pan, and turn off the heat. Finish cooking the fish with residual heat, about 5 to 7 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fish. This allows the fish to be thoroughly cooked without becoming over-cooked and dry.

Toss a salad while you wait for the salmon to finish cooking, then serve it immediately with fresh lemon or lime wedges. If you want, top it with a dollop of whole milk Greek yogurt.


Irene Jennings said…
That's a superb recipe!!!! I have cooked it for New Year's eve and I'm so glad my family loved it.

Fishing Seattle