Why It Works
- Starting the salmon over high heat, then reducing the heat, allows you to achieve crispy skin while maintaining a moist, medium-rare center.
- Crunchy diced fresh vegetables provide texture and flavor contrasts to the sweet and savory glaze on the salmon.
Some people look at a recipe like my teriyaki-glazed chicken and scallion skewers and think, I have to make a full cup of teriyaki sauce only to use half of it?
Not me. I think, Sweet! That's the hardest part of dinner tonight, and it takes care of next week, too.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in my years working in restaurant kitchens is that preparing things 100% from scratch for every meal is a surefire way to burn out. Even with a relatively simple list of ingredients and preparation, there are times when I'd rather just pick up the phone and order a pizza than be bothered starting a new project from square one. At least, that's what I would do, if I didn't realize that leftover bits and pieces from recipes are all culinary gifts, just waiting to be unwrapped and repurposed.
It's an inevitable part of restaurant life: That flavorful oil I have left over after frying shallots? You can bet your butt it's gonna go into the walk-in and will get pulled out again later in the week as the base for a vinaigrette, or perhaps as a drizzle on a soup course. The chiles I pickled for that fish dish are going to last for months after the fish is out of season, and that's great! One less item to prep down the line.
This lesson, this method of making future meals easier, is so strongly ingrained in me that I often intentionally double or triple the quantities of a base preparation so that I'll have an ample supply to deploy down the line.
That's what allows me to pull together a dinner like this rice bowl with teriyaki-glazed salmon and avocado in the amount of time it takes to steam a pot of rice, with plenty of standing-around-and-whiling-away-on-the-internet time built in. Once I have the rice on, all I have to do is sear the salmon (I use this technique, developed for my book), dice up some avocado and cucumber, slice a couple of scallions, and pull that leftover teriyaki sauce out of the fridge. (A couple of spare shishito peppers from my pepper bush out back may have also slipped their way into the bowls.)
The one question this does bring up is: How do I know something is going to last a long time in the fridge? What's the point of making a lot of extra sauce or curry paste or pickles or whatever if it's just gonna go bad?
That's a good question. The long answer is that, well, it's complicated. We can do all kinds of calculations based on water activity, inclusion of antimicrobial ingredients, the temperature of your fridge, et cetera. The short answer is my basic rule of thumb: If it tastes too salty, too sweet, too acidic, too smoky, too fatty, or too spicy to be enjoyable on its own in any quantity of more than a taste, it's probably equally unenjoyable to microscopic baddies. The corollary enforcement method is the basic sniff test. If it smells remotely bad when you revisit it, just cut your losses, toss it, and move on. But, using my rule of thumb, I rarely have to get rid of anything in my fridge.
Of course, if you or someone you're cooking for are immunocompromised or pregnant, you should exercise an appropriate level of caution.
Teriyaki sauce, for the record, will last indefinitely. Some eel shops in Japan have been using the same pot of sauce—replenished occasionally with a fresh splash of soy sauce and mirin—for centuries, and, while I might have some things hiding in the recesses of my fridge that look like they could plausibly be that old, the teriyaki sauce is as fresh as the day I made it, every time I go in for a dip.
Also, who am I kidding? I still get lazy and order in pizza from time to time.
4 salmon fillets, about 5 ounces (140g) each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable or canola oil
4 cups cooked white or brown rice (about 680g cooked rice)
1 avocado, diced
1 Persian or Japanese cucumber, diced
6 to 8 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (120ml) homemade or store-bought teriyaki sauce
Furikake and/or toasted sesame seeds, for serving (see notes)
Press salmon fillets between paper towels to dry surfaces thoroughly. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon fillets, skin side down. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, pressing gently on back of fillets to ensure good contact between the skin and the pan, until skin is rendered and crisp, about 6 minutes. If skin shows resistance when you attempt to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook until it lifts easily.
Flip salmon and cook on second side until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 120°F (49°C) for medium-rare or 130°F (54°C) for medium, about 1 minute longer. Transfer salmon to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.
Divide rice evenly between 4 serving bowls. Top with diced avocado, cucumber, and scallions. Top each with a salmon fillet and spoon sauce on top, using the back of a spoon to evenly glaze each fillet. Sprinkle with furikake and/or sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Furikake is a blend of seasonings typically used to flavor rice. It is available in multiple flavors at Japanese groceries or online.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 37g||48%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||30%|
|Total Carbohydrate 66g||24%|
|Dietary Fiber 9g||30%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 21mg||103%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|