I hit the in-law jackpot for a multitude of reasons. Not only are they the sweetest, most loving and generous in-laws a girl could ask for, but they also bring me fresh fish all the way from Alaska.
I’ve never in my life had the urge to take a trip to Alaska, because, well, there’s beaches, and I’m not one for the cold, but after seeing pictures of their vacation and tasting just how fresh the seafood is first-hand, I think I may see an Alaskan adventure in my future – of course after I visit Hawaii, Turks & Caicos and Bora Bora…But in the future nonetheless.
We were lucky enough to receive three different varieties of fish from them, but I think the one I was most excited to cook with was the wild Alaskan salmon. Mostly because I knew it would photograph beautifully, but also because it happens to be my favorite fish regardless of where it comes from, so the fact that it resided in Alaska and I knew exactly how fresh it was, made it all the more appealing to me.
There were a couple of different preparations that ran through my head when initially planning what I was going to do with the filets. The first being a fussed-up sandwich, and the second, encased in some sort of crispy coating, but when the ideas really started to materialize, I realized I didn’t want to do anything to mask the flavor or the beauty of the fish in its innate state, so I went back to the drawing board.
I knew I wanted to compliment the flavors of the fish, not disguise them, but I also wanted to do something other than simply sprinkle some salt and pepper on it, sear or grill it and call it a day.
Enter: compound butter. One of my very favorite ways to add a subtle hint of flavor and luxuriousness to items that require only a little bit of assistance.
I’ve always loved the combination of lime with salmon, but also wanted to bring some heat into play as well, so the classic pairing of chipotle and lime seemed like a no-brainer in a compound butter. I started out with softened butter, added in a teaspoon or so of lime zest, a touch of chipotle powder for that smoky heat I love and just a little bit of honey to create that perfect balancing act of sweet and spicy.I seasoned the butter with just a touch of salt, wrapped it up in some plastic wrap and then popped it into the fridge to solidify again.
In the meantime, I seasoned the salmon filets with a little bit of salt, pepper and a touch more chipotle powder, and then seared them in a super hot seasoned cast-iron skillet until both sides were super crispy.
While the salmon was still piping hot, I took a generous piece of the chilled compound butter and gently set it on top. The residual heat from the fish melted the butter, creating a sort of hybrid between a glaze and a sauce – swoon.
Even though I used salmon here, really, the butter would be lovely on any variety of fish, shellfish or even chicken or beef. I’ve even been known to stash compound butters in the fridge for late-night bread and butter consumption…
I think from start to finish the entire meal takes about twenty minutes to throw together, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner; but it’s beauty and taste also make it worthy of a special occasion, which happens to be my favorite kind of meal.
Shout out to Karyl and Sal for gifting us this beautiful fish!
- 4 5-6 ounce salmon filets
- ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, divided
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Season salmon filets with salt, pepper and ¼ teaspoon of the chipotle powder. (1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder to season all of the salmon filets.)
- In a small bowl, combine remaining chipotle powder, butter, lime zest, juice, honey and salt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer butter to a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up plastic jelly roll style so you have one log of butter. (You should be able to cut it into four even pieces.) Chill in the fridge.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet to a medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, add olive oil. Sear salmon until crispy on both sides and medium-well in the middle, about 3 minutes per side.
- Once the salmon is done cooking, transfer to serving platter and dollop with butter. The butter will melt on the surface of the salmon.