Archive | November, 2014

Brown Sugar-Cured Salmon

20 Nov

This grilled and smoked salmon recipe by the food writer Betty Fussell calls for curing the fish for several hours with salt, brown sugar and spices before smoking it over indirect heat on your grill. While the fatty fish absorbs the smoke beautifully, the fish can also be successfully cooked in a grill pan, or under the broiler. The salt and sugar cure, laced with sweet spices, both flavors the fish and firms up its flesh, giving it a meaty, silky texture. Serve it with a crisp salad for a light supper, or with rice for something more substantial.


4 skin-on, center-cut wild king or other salmon fillets (2 1/2 pounds total)
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground mace
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
Olive oil
1 ½ cups hickory chips, soaked for 30 minutes and drained


Pat fish dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt, pepper, spices and zest. Rub mixture all over fish. Place in a dish, cover and let cure in the fridge for at least 4 hours and preferably 8 hours. Rinse fillets and pat dry. Generously oil salmon.
Light the grill. Once coals are hot, scatter drained hickory chips over coals. (If you’re using a gas grill, place them in a disposable metal pan on the grill next to the salmon.)
Place salmon flesh-side down on grill and cover, closing top vent so not much smoke is released. Smoke salmon, covered, for about 5 to 6 minutes, then flip. (If the fish is sticking to the grill grate, then it’s not ready to flip. Cook for another 3 to 10 minutes, depending upon how hot your fire is. The fish is done when the interior is medium pink and exterior crisp and smoky. Serve with lemon wedges.

The Vietnamese Noodle Salad Known as Bun Bo Xao

3 Nov

Hot from the wok, a fragrant, zesty stir-fry of beef is spooned over freshly cooked room temperature rice noodles. Then come carrot, cucumber and radish slivers, and a sprinkling of crushed roasted peanuts and crispy fried shallots for good measure. A pile of sweet green herbs is at the ready. Now a generous splash of the traditional umami-laden dipping sauce called nuoc cham.

And there you have it: bun bo xao, a warm, made-to-order Vietnamese noodle salad, refreshing and satisfying for an easy lunch or supper.

For the uninitiated, this dish makes an easy introduction to Vietnamese cooking. The standard ingredients are all there: fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic and hot pepper. There’s no complicated broth to make; just a quick marinade for the meat, chopping a few vegetables, washing some herbs.

But it is the nuoc cham dipping sauce that pulls it all together. The complex flavor of the sauce belies how simple it is to make. The most important element is amber-colored fish sauce, made from a long fermentation of salted anchovies.

Not all fish sauce is created equal. Connoisseurs agree that Vietnam makes fish sauce of the highest quality, and many swear by the Red Boat brand, which is an “extra virgin” first pressing from Phu Quoc island with a pure light flavor and no additives. Always read the label carefully when buying fish sauce. Cheaper brands often add fructose and other seasonings along with stabilizers or preservatives. The best fish sauce really doesn’t taste fishy at all.

The ingredients list for our bun bo xao is a bit on the long side, but fear not. If you’re organized and have everything ready when you begin to cook, all will be well, and the dish will come together in 10 minutes.

The majority of the work goes into the prep. It’s O.K. to julienne the vegetables in advance, several hours ahead or the even the day before. But do try to find the freshest herb sprigs available. You’ll want a mixture of tender cilantro, fragrant basils, mint, dill, sawtooth coriander and small perilla (shiso) leaves.

Savory rice noodles like these can become part of your salad repertory year-round. The flavors are clean, bright and restorative. You might think of Vietnamese food as summery fare, but I found myself craving it on a recent warm autumn day.