Salmonfarmed or wildis one of the healthiest ingredients in any kitchen, and one of the most versatile. It’s easy to add a crisp cornmeal crust and a rich aromatic mussel broth!
Yield: Serves 4
2 to 3 pounds fresh mussels, rinsed well in cold water
a big splash any white wine
a big splash heavy cream (35%)
2 tablespoons Basil Pesto
1 cup fine cornmeal
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 6 ounce skinless salmon fillets
a big splash any vegetable oil
To make the broth, wash the mussels very well and discard any that are open and won’t close with a bit of gentle finger pressure.
Toss the mussels, wine and cream into a large stockpot and begin cooking over medium-high heat. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid to capture the steam. Cook until the mussel shells pop open, about 5 minutes or so. Cool the mussels until you can handle them, then shuck away, tossing the shells and any lingering fibres.
Strain the broth into a saucepan. When you’re ready to serve the salmon, bring the broth to a simmer, season it and then stir in the basil pesto and reserved mussel meat.
To make the crust, pour the finely ground cornmeal into a large resealable bag with a sprinkle of salt and a generous sprinkle of pepper. (When you’re crusting something, coarsely ground cornmeal doesn’t adhere as well as finely ground cornmeal.) Toss each salmon fillet one at a time with the cornmeal.
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes.
Add a big splash of cooking oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin film. When you’re pan-frying the fish, it’s better to have a bit too much oil rather than too little. This will help the crust cook more evenly. Carefully add the crusted fillets and pan-fry until crisp and golden on the first side, about 5 minutes. Turn the fillets and crisp the other side.
Serve with a ladleful of the reheated mussel broth.
Most mussels are sold without their beards, the tough fibres they use to anchor themselves to rocks under water. If your mussels’ beards are still attached, just tug them off.
You can flavour the mussel broth with any wine. The cream is optionalit adds richnessbut the broth is still very flavourful without it. You may replace the basil pesto with a spoonful of any herb you fancy. For a flavour twist, try adding a handful of chili powder, curry powder or fennel or poppy seeds to the cornmeal. Try filling your bowl with a handful or two of baby spinach leaves before adding the salmon and broth.
This is one of my favourite side dishes because bacon and lentils are perfect together. The rich meatiness of bacon easily complements the earthy hearty flavours of lentils. Try making this dish once and it will instantly become one of your favourites too!