I’ve been meaning to make salmon teriyaki ever since Tamaso and Robert shared their stovetop techniques via the comments on the true chicken teriyaki recipe post. What stopped me from doing it till last week was getting around this issue: lingering fishy smells in the house. I know that sounds weird of me, the person who has no problem deep-frying up a storm. I have a decent exhaust over the stove but it isn’t quite enough. I rarely sear fatty fish like salmon on the stove. A couple of weeks ago after eating at a local restaurant I walked out with a sweater that reeked of pan-seared fish. When the kitchen fired (cooked) the fish order, I recognized the smell of fish oil hitting the pan, and I remembered long afterward.
I was looking for a solution to stinky salmon teriyaki, but the majority of Japanese cookbooks I own called for grilling or broiling the fish; the teriyaki glaze just doesn’t seem to adhere and penetrate well on the grill or under the broiler. The only work that prescribed stovetop cooking was Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. His method was so interesting for several reasons.
In the yellowtail teriyaki recipe, Tsuji called for liberally salting the fish for 30 minutes to remove moisture and firm the flesh, as well as to remove some of the fishiness. The stovetop searing was done in two steps: a partial quick sear followed by – this was the kicker – a quick rinse of boiling water. Seriously. That washed away some of the fishy oiliness and salt, explained Tsuji, who obviously realized how weird that technique was. Then the fish was finished in the skillet with the teriyaki sauce.
His recipe called for using a tiny bit of oil in the pan to prevent sticking. Tsuji warns cooks of the smoke that will rise from the pan. My workaround was to use an 8-inch (20 cm) Swiss diamond nonstick skillet, which is super heavy and conducts heat well. (I bought my "irregular" one for about $35 from this site). I used no oil and the salmon was fine. Because of my small skillet, I cooked the steaks one at a time.
So did the fish stink up the house? No. There was a faint smell but it was not unpleasant. We had leftovers so I packed some for my husband’s work lunch and ate some at room temperature for my lunch at home. It was delicious.
I used homemade mirin for the teriyaki sauce and served the salmon with some of the pickled ginger prepared weeks ago. It’s pretty neat to cook with pantry items you made yourself, but you don’t have to do like I did to make a good version of salmon teriyaki.
One final note, I opted for salmon steaks in order to glaze the maximum surface area of flesh. Plus, salmon steaks are less expensive than fillet and they taste better. The little ends by the belly of the steaks are fatty and cook up to a delightful rich, savory sweetness. Save that for yourself.
Yields: 4 servings
- 2 salmon steaks, each about 10 ounces (300 g) and 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce (make from step 1 of the chicken teriyaki recipe)
- Japanese pickled ginger, homemade or storebought
- Rinse and pat the salmon steaks dry, putting them on a plate. Sprinkle sea salt all over the steaks, letting the salt rain down on the fish. Flip and repeat on the other side. Rub some on the skin too. It's fine for salt to be on the plate. Let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 1/2 hours; return to room temperature before cooking.
- Set a rack placed inside a rimmed baking sheet near the stove. Bring some water to a boil in a kettle on the stove, lowering the heat to keep hot.
- To cook, heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay down the steak(s) and let them sear, undisturbed for 1 1/2 minutes. Turn and sear the other side. Transfer to the rack. Return the water to a boil, remove from the heat, and let the boiling subside before pouring some water over the fish to quickly rinse it. Flip the fish pour water over the other side.
- Replace the fish in the skillet. Add the teriyaki sauce and 2 tablespoons of water. Heat the skillet over medium-low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes longer, turning the fish to coat and glaze the fish with the bubbly sauce. When there's little liquid left in the skillet, the fish is done. If you cooked the steaks one at a time, repeat with the other steak.
- Transfer to a plate and serve with pickled ginger. Rice is the perfect accompaniment.