Recipes from Jackrabbit Hill…Sierra Foothills Cooking in a Small Vineyard Setting – “Salmon with Chipotle, Butter and Cilantro”

This is the simplest of recipes and the marriage of rich salmon oils, butter and chipotle is one made in heaven.  The secret is fresh Chinook salmon and a high quality chipotle powder.  Chipotle is smoked, dried and ground jalapeno peppers.  I prefer the grey/brown large grain spice over the red powder, but both work here. The best pods I ever found was at the fabulous Santa Barbara Farmers Market on State Street.  I bought a whole shopping bag and took the intact smoked peppers home to grind them. In Northern California I now have to grow, smoke and grind my own.  It’s a fall ritual.  A good substitute, interesting in its own right, is Jamacian jerk spice used like the smoked jalapeno in moderation.


One section of skinless salmon fillet.

Peanut oil

Chipotle or Jamaican Jerk spice

Several pats unsalted butter

Cilantro sprigs

Rinse and pat dry the salmon fillet.  Add a little peanut oil to the nonstick pan and sauté over medium heat for five minutes, remembering the Canadian ten minutes to the vertical inch rule.  A high quality (Swiss Diamond) pan is important.  Salmon release is the definitive test for any skillet.  Most fail.  Flip the salmon and sprinkle your chipotle spice on the fish, then add the unsalted butter pats.  Don’t overdo the mild, smoky heat.  Most filets need ten minutes cooking time, but test with a fork until you get it down.  I go for a crisp, caramelized surface texture. Garnish with cilantro.

I like to plate this dish on top of deveined red chard cut on the chiffonade that is stir fried with mushrooms and pancetta.  Try a saffron infusion using Bomba paella rice and chicken stock.  Red watermelon cubes or balls sing next to the saffron and salmon colors.  Oranges and black olives in a green salad just compliment the textures, flavors and aromas.

Not counting prep time, you can use three skillets and have this dish on the table in a half hour. A little less if you are fast and organized.  Guests love to watch this meal come together with a glass of wine in hand.  Try a fruity Barbera or zinfandel from award winning Solune Vineyards in Nevada County.


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