Ginger-soy braised salmon starts tender, finishes deliciously

Photo by Keri White

I love salmon seasoned with ginger and soy. The flavors complement the fish beautifully and provide a simple way to add interest and variety to a standard ingredient.

Pairing it with roasted honeynut squash, an autumn favorite, and a green salad was the work of a moment, and dinner was ready.

Braising generally suggests a long, slow cooking process with plenty of liquid to break down a protein — think brisket, lamb shoulder or pulled turkey. In this case, the braise was brief; you don’t need to break down the already-tender fish, but the technique allows the flavors to permeate the salmon, producing a delicious result.

These days, we are enjoying the bountiful squash harvest, and honeynuts are sweet, cute and easy to prepare. Unlike butternuts, their larger and less-sweet cousins, which can be difficult to cut, honeynuts are relatively simple to prep and cook. Salt, pepper and olive oil do the trick, but you can certainly get creative — Chinese five-spice powder would be a nice way to highlight the Asian flair in this meal.

We tossed baby greens with rice vinegar and oil for a salad, but you have lots of options to round out this meal. In place of the squash, consider rice or noodles. Ditch the salad for roasted or sautéed broccoli, steamed greens or string beans.

The salmon delivers plenty of flavor and complexity, so you can keep the sides quite simple without risking bored taste buds.

Ginger-Soy Braised Salmon

Serves 4
A word on the salmon: I used Coho, which is quite lean — hence the braise, which prevents the fish from drying out. Sockeye salmon is another lean species and would lend itself well to this cooking technique. That said, fattier varietals like North Atlantic and king work just fine here.

1¾ pounds salmon filets
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece ginger, grated
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Heat your oven to 275 degrees. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper and lemon juice and set aside.

In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and red pepper until fragrant and slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the soy sauce and wine and bring it to a boil. Remove the skillet from the heat, add cilantro and stir until wilted.

Push the sauce ingredients to the sides of the pan and place the salmon filets in the center. Spoon the sauce and vegetables over the fish until coated, cover the pan with a lid or foil and place it in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the salmon. It should be cooked through but not dried out.


Roasted Honeynut Squash

Serves 4
These little beauties are sweet and flavorful. Some people eat the skin, although it can be rather tough. I prefer to scrape the flesh out and discard the skin. You can cook these ahead of the salmon, but leave them in the oven to finish while the fish cooks.

If you can’t find honeynut, any autumn squash works here — delicata, acorn, butternut, kabocha, etc.

I am a fan of the straightforward salt/pepper/olive oil combo, but you can get as creative as you like with paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, butter, honey, cayenne, garlic powder or seasoned salt. The only limit is your imagination and your pantry.

You can time the cooking of these so that they are mostly done when you put the fish in the oven. That way, when you reduce the heat from 350 to 275 degrees to cook the fish, the squash will finish cooking and save you having to take them out and reheat before dinner. Don’t worry about overcooking them; at that low temperature, they will be fine.

4 honeynut squash, halved and seeded
Salt/pepper/olive oil

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Place the squash, cut side up, on the sheet and drizzle it with olive oil. Brush to spread and coat the surface with oil. Sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper, and bake for about 45 minutes until the flesh is tender when pricked with a fork.

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