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Marcus Samuelsson is downright obliged to love salmon, having grown up on the coast of Sweden. And he has a thing for the flavors of Southeast Asia, choosing the foods of that region to be his desert-island pick, so to speak. In this dish from his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, he combines both cuisines into one weird and weirdly wonderful bowl. The noodle soup starts off recognizably Asian enough, with coconut milk, miso, ginger, shiitakes, and Chinese egg noodles forming the base. Then things start to get a little funny. Water chestnuts are not totally out of place, with their unmistakeable crunch, but hearts of palm come as something of a surprise. However, their slightly meaty, slightly silky texture works with the shiitake and against the water chestnuts in a pleasant way. And then come the cubes of avocado, which are definitely a wonky addiction, but darn if their creaminess doesn't add something that I'd miss if it was gone. To go on top of the concoction, Samuelsson sears salmon with a crust of wasabi powder and sesame seeds, which adds just enough heat and crunch to keep it distinctive against the components of the soup, and then he sprinkles over mint and dill, because—I don't know—he's Marcus Samuelsson, and he can. And it's good.
Why I picked this recipe: Oh heck, I trust the man.
What worked: Pretty much everything. The treatment of the salmon is one I'll stash in my repertoire to uses time and again, and the soup is unusual, rich, and memorable.
What didn't: I didn't love the avocado added to the soup as early as he adds it. There's seasoning and stirring required after that point, and the avocado sort of melts into the broth, muddying it up a bit. (And again with my pet peeve, but the soup in the photo is sprinkled with what looks like cilantro, while the recipe calls for mint and dill. Just, why? Though cilantro would be good here, too...)
Suggested tweaks: I'd disperse the avocado over each bowlful of soup when you add the salmon. And be forewarned that the noodles soak up much of the broth, so expect that 'sea' to be at low-tide.
Thanks to our friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we are giving away 5 copies of Marcus Off Duty this week.