Some staple foods and ingredients highly benefit from their simple integrity and beg minimal altering. Salmon is one of those foods. It’s one of the fattiest fishes you can get, rendering it succulent and flavorful. Sometimes, all you really need is salt, pepper and lemon. Garlic is always magical and certain dried or fresh herbs can beautify and perfume it. Its pretty hue also makes it easy to enjoy on its own without much prettification. If we look at blackened salmon, we see how beautiful of a fish it really is. That process of charring the skin is trending at the moment and I’m relishing in it all. When I found this perfectly blackened salmon at the sports bar within my local Whole Foods, I was torn. It was between this simple “burger” on potato buns or their brilliant salmon croquette, which is my default when I ever I pop in there to dine; mostly after a long bike ride leaving me too linguini-noodle to make anything for myself. Lucky me, they were out of the croquette forcing me to try out the blackened salmon. I wasn’t too convinced, but I was starving and really wanted leaner protein. Their lunch menu the sports bar, is nicely varied.
I’m sharing this simply to highlight how simply you can tweak and upgrade a pretty good dish. The bun was generously buttered, a requirement for a fantastic sandwich. I don’t get how many burger makers don’t do this. It’s easy. Okay, so it costs a few extra cents for the butter. I’m certain the return is worth the investment. The salmon itself was glorious. Super juicy, cooked medium well, cut into an appropriate 8 0z “steak” and bore the mostly lovely char.
Look.at.that.there. Perfection. I’ve become friendly with twin chefs manning the grill, but I’ve yet to ask him about the seasonings they use to produce a beautiful layer of shiny, and textured black tar, as I call it. I’m certain it’s a cajun seasoning, probably one they sell. Their remoulade sauce is good but I typically opt out of any kind of white sauce based in mayonnaise. I swiped a slither this last time for the sake of moistening the whole sandwich a bit. Truthfully, the salmon excretes so much fatty and tasty juice, it really doesn’t need it.
As is, the sandwich is tasty. I could eat the salmon without the minimal accoutrements, served with grilled or roasted veggies. Even still, there are few things they are overlooking that could make their bar menu a real stunner. To begin, the tomatoes slices are sliced 1/12″ thin. That’s just egregious. Honestly. As much as Whole Foods charges for everything up and down their aisles (the same exact bottle of Korbel sparkling wine is $18 here and $12 at Giant just two miles down the street), surely, an 1 1/2″ slice should be standard. I almost found it insulting they would even bother adding two ridiculous mandarin-slicer thin slices. It could have also had a ring or two of onion; perhaps of the red variety. Just a suggestion. For $9.50, even with the black pepper potato chips they pair, I could justify even offering their customers one thick slice. To be fair, if you’re a frequent diner, or somewhat chatty, the efficient cooks are kind enough to fancy your meatier needs. But it shouldn’t be that intimate of a understanding.
And so at home, my tweaks fix those few missing umami. I toast the bread, charring the edges and the inside enough to give it additional texture against the buttery salmon. I add tomatoes. Real slices of tomatoes. I slice up some red onions. I layer up a few sprigs of cilantro which brighten it all up and sing harmoniously with the blackened skin. I finally grind bit of black pepper and sprinkle an unmentionable pinch of sea salt. That’s it. It’s not much, but it upgrades a really good sandwich to a decadent meal you can guiltlessly enjoy.
My modifications are simple and fast enough, but I really don’t want to have to do that. And for $9.50, I shouldn’t have to. It’s still a good sandwich. It’s all about the salmon away.
What’s your at-home fixer upper approach to your fave dish that needs some TLC?