Kassel’s Cooking Corner: Salmon Calibacitas

Cross-posted from my LiveJournal ramblings.

Get kind of drunk and make this really good dinner. Or else…

I got it into my head the other day to make some sort of "Mexican" interpretation of salmon. I think this came out of the idea of a salmon run through the Sea of Cortez. So I used teh interwebs to look up some ideas to go off of. And like a salmon run in Mexico, there just wasn't anything out there for Mexican food and salmon save for one that called for grilling it and serving it with mango salsa, which is such a tired idea in general and reminds me of every single dish the punkass Bobby Flay has ever made on his stupid show on TV.

But I had some salmon steaks in the deep freeze and some lemons that really needed to get used. Then I noticed I had some grilled corn in the freezer, and that is something I use in my recipe for calibacitas: a Mexican squash dish that's kind of like a stew. That made me think that maybe combining calibacitas with a grilled salmon might be good.

So that's what I made…

Since I believe all cooking save for baking should be approached with a certain cavalier and confident attitude, I didn't really pay attention to quantities when making this. But the ingredient list is as follows, and the phrase "to taste" is probably a good thing to keep in mind when talking about spice amounts:
Step 1
Step 1 – Marinating Fish (No. That's not blood)

  • Salmon steaks
  • Lemons and limes
  • Yellow onion
  • Squash (I used Mexican gray squash. Zucchini would also work. I also think yellow squash would be groovy)
  • Roasted corn. You could also use frozen regular corn, but, dammit, roasted corn is just yummie
  • Green Anaheim chilis. I used a regular old can of 'em. I loves me some chilis.
  • Cilantro
  • Pepper Jack cheese
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Sugar
  • Canola Oil
  • Spanish Rice to serve on the side, if ya want.

Step 1 – Marinate the Salmon

Squeeze the juice from lemons and limes into something you can marinate the salmon in. Add a bit of water, chili powder, a sprinkle of cumin, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar (not too much; the idea is that it will help with caramelization down the line). Step 2
Step 2 – Yer Non-Fish Ingredients
Mix these together and toss in your salmon. Cover this and marinate it in the refrigerator, turning the fish every once in a while. I threw these into the refrigerator at about 9AM based on the theory that the longer something marinates the better and because I happened to be doing things in the kitchen a the time and had the time. Fish tends to be a quick marinating meat, though, and I am sure that you could marinate it for a shorter time. I wouldn't go below an hour though.

Step 2 – Prepare Your Mise en Place
Did you like my fancypants French culinary phrase of mise en place? Did it make me sound smart, like I know what I am doing beforehand, rather than cooking and writing and taking pictures while drinking too much cheap white wine?

Yeh… anyhoo, slice your onions and squash into decent sized hunks. Dice your garlic. Cut some pepper jack cheese into pieces. Cut up some cilantro. Open your can o' chilis and get your corn out. This isn't going to take too long to cook; make sure you have yer junk cut up.

Step 3 – Cookin' Stuff Part 1
Step 3
Step 3 – Cut, cut, cut, dice, cut, slice, dice

You are going to need two pans for this: one for the salmon and one for the vegetables.

Start with the vegetables as they will take the longest. Put a dab of oil in a pan and get it really, really hot. Add in your chilis and cook them like hell. Really, the trick is to burn them. Since I am a cheapskate, I didn't spring for good roasted green chilis, and this ghetto method is a good way of approximating the "roasted" flavor.

Add a bit more oil and throw in your onions. Cook over a high heat until almost brown and then add the garlic.

Take your 2nd pan and add a bit of oil and start it warming up.

Once the garlic is translucent, add your squash. Cook until the squash is just starting to look wilty (for lack of a better word). Add your corn at this point. Step 4
Step 4 – Cookin' with gas
As far as the corn goes, it was frozen when I added it, so I left the heat on high for a few more minutes and then turned it down.

Add some oregano (just a pinch), some cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Stir this to coat and then squeeze the juice of a lime onto it. Cover and put on low heat. You're pretty much done with this pan for a bit.

Step 4 – Cookin' Stuff Part 2
Your second pan should be hot. Add your salmon. If you have salmon with the skin on (as I did), Put it down with the skin side on the surface of the pan. After about 2 minutes
turn it and you should be able to simply peel the skin off. Cook for 3 minutes and turn again, cooking for another minute or so until the salmon appears done and is a bit browned.

Step 5 – Plate
Take some of the vegetable mixture form Step 3 and put it on a plate. Put some pepper jack cheese on top of that and then throw on a piece of salmon. Then add a quarter of your cilantro and throw on a piece of salmon. One more bit o' cilantro and a squeeze of lime, and you're done.

I served this with some Spanish rice (Near East brand, if you must know) to round it all out.
Step 5
Step 5 – Ain't That Pretty?!?