Jan 192014

Miso-Roasted Salmon + Aromatic White

This is less a recipe than a technique, and it resulted in one of my favorite meals last summer when I did the Clean program. It has remained a part of my regular repertoire, particularly when I want something a little special, with loads of flavor, but requiring very little effort.

Miso is useful that way. A simple dollop or slather can transform even the most humdrum dish into something intensely delicious. Like fish sauce, kimchi and other fermented goodies, miso (fermented rice, barley, soybeans or other grains and beans) delivers a complex depth of flavor that is difficult to replicate any other way. I tend to keep a tub of miso in the fridge at all times — it keeps for months and can elevate anything from a cup of broth to salad dressings, sauces, nut butters, stir fries, noodles, fish, chicken, even burgers.

There are so many types of miso, it can seem difficult to figure out which one you should buy. And even if a recipe calls for a particular color of miso (typically white or red), they rarely specify the type of grain/bean in the miso or how long the miso has been aged. The good news, I’ve found, is that I basically like them all — including the South River Chickpea Miso I used on this salmon.

I know that the miso looks a bit burned in the picture above, and I suppose it is. After making this more than a dozen times over the months, I’ve found that the sweet spot I’m looking for is burnished not blackened. But if if tips over the edge just a bit, as here, I’m still pretty happy with it.

I like to serve this on a simple bed of baby arugula, very lightly dressed with kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and alongside a pile of roasted carrot and yellow onion strips. I’ve also done a quick Asian-flavored slaw in warmer weather.

Pairing: Aromatic White

During the Clean program, I wasn’t drinking alcohol at all. But I knew this would be a good match for an aromatic white like Riesling the moment I first tasted it. Miso, for me, has a slightly tropical sweetness — tropical in that humid, subtropical Osaka way, not so much breezy, mild Maui. Doing the miso this way — without mixing it with other ingredients — results in intense flavor, and I think it needs an equally intense wine. An oaky Chardonnay with its more subdued fruit and aromatics just would not work for me here. But racy, aromatic fruit, clean and pure and focused, maybe even a touch of sweetness? Yes, please.

For me, a Riesling from Alsace or a German Spätlese would be my first choice, for that sense of ripe lushness that I typically get in both instances. But an Australian Riesling also did the trick, as did one of my all-time favorite wines that I just never tire of — the Pichot Vouvray, below.

Zind-Humbrecht 2009 Riesling Alsace ($25). Aromatic and crisp, with racy acidity — green apple, lemon, fresh apricot — softened with just a touch of creamy richness. White flower and dry mineral notes. Showing beautifully now — should keep evolving over the next 10+ years. Find it!

Dr. Fischer 2011 Riesling Spätlese Mosel Ockfener Bockstein ($23). A lot of complexity at this price, with layers of Granny Smith apple, ripe persimmon, light citrus, cream, peppery greens. Loads of aging potential — should be fascinating! Find it!

Kilikanoon 2012 Riesling Clare Valley Killerman’s Run ($20). Starts dry and lightly spicy, but then opens up to juicy tropical citrus and melon, with a fleshy finish. Very food friendly. Find it!

Domaine Pichot 2012 Vouvray Le Peu de la Moriette ($17). Love you. Love your dress. Hope you win. Love this wine. Smooth, dreamy, ripe fig and green pear, touch of honey, touch of fresh herb, silky finish. And reasonably available, too! Find it!

Recipe: Miso-Roasted Salmon

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place salmon fillets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, skin side down. Slather each fillet with white miso, using a generous tablespoon or more on each fillet. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Start checking at about 10 minutes — you want the miso bubbly and caramelized, but not burned. The salmon will be medium-rare.

If you like your salmon a bit more done, I would suggest pre-cooking the salmon for 5-8 minutes, then slathering the miso and returning the salmon to the oven to finish cooking. That way you can get more “doneness” on the fish without burning the miso.

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