Often during the High Holidays, I am inspired to cook with pomegranate molasses. I absolutely love this condiment (the homemade kind), and I am always looking for new ways to use it. Salmon fillets prove to be the perfect palette for a rich, ruby red glaze of pomegranate syrup. I like using sweetened homemade pomegranate molasses here, not unsweetened reduced juice (which is what you will find bottled at most Middle Eastern markets). Adding a little sugar to the pomegranate juice as it reduces makes a tastier syrup that produces a phenomenal glaze. A crisp and sweet-tart crust forms on the pomegranate glazed salmon that is something akin to teriyaki, but with the added brightness of the fruit.
The Perfect Salmon Recipe for Rosh Hashanah
I have made this dish for Rosh Hashanah several times, and it is always a crowd pleaser. Pomegranate is often eaten during Rosh Hashanah to represent “new fruit”– a fruit that has just come into season, or one that we have not yet enjoyed during the year. Cooking with pomegranate molasses for the holiday is both delicious and symbolic. Pomegranates are mentioned several times in the Torah; it is said that each pomegranate contains 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot (or commandments) found in the Torah. The pomegranate also reminds us that in the coming year, our good deeds should be as plentiful as the fertile seeds of this beautiful fruit. The layered symbolism and rich, robust flavor of this special fruit make pomegranates one of my favorite holiday ingredients.
How to Glaze Salmon
When developing this recipe, I knew I wanted to sear the fish on the stovetop before transferring it to the oven, so it would get a nice crust– but I didn’t want to burn the pomegranate molasses, so I had to glaze it after the searing. I got some helpful tips from America’s Test Kitchen on getting the glaze to stick after the sear by coating the fresh fish with a cornstarch mixture (I also tested it with potato starch, which worked great). I seared the salmon, glazed it, and finished it in a moderately hot oven. This created a perfectly glazed, foolproof salmon with incredible flavor.
Tips for Making Pomegranate Glazed Salmon
If you want to include this recipe in your holiday menu, here are a few tips to ensure success:
– Use my recipe for homemade sweetened pomegranate molasses (click here for the recipe). The bottled stuff is much more tart, and doesn’t have the thick, rich consistency of homemade. It’s really easy to make, and a jar will last in the refrigerator for several months. Make the version that includes sugar for best results.
– Make sure your pomegranate molasses is at room temperature before you begin. This will allow the glaze to spread evenly across the delicate surface of the fish. Refrigerated molasses has a hardened consistency that will not spread easily.
– Use a nonstick skillet. Salmon is too delicate for a regular skillet, even with oil. You’ll need the nonstick to keep the salmon from breaking apart as it cooks.
– Don’t crowd the pan as you sear the fish. Salmon is delicate and difficult to turn without breaking, and a crowded pan makes it even more difficult.
– If you have to cook a lot of salmon for several guests, it’s easy to multiply this recipe for more servings. Sear the salmon in batches in the skillet first, then transfer to a larger baking sheet for finishing in the oven.
– To start your fillets ahead of time, sear them and place them on a baking tray up to one hour before your meal time. Glaze and finish them in the oven just before serving– it takes only 10 minutes or so to finish the fillets.
– If you’re making this recipe for Passover, you can easily make it kosher for the holiday by using potato starch instead of cornstarch.
This preparation for salmon is truly delicious. The pomegranate molasses combines with the salted brown sugar crust, caramelizing and infusing the salmon with a wonderful teriyaki-like flavor. The dish is gluten free and all natural. I served it to a friend recently, who declared it was the best salmon he’d ever tasted. High praise!
The best part? It’s super easy to prepare, especially if you make the pomegranate molasses a day or more in advance. Garnish it with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint for a beautiful holiday presentation.
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Pomegranate Molasses Salmon
- 4 boneless salmon fillets, skin on - about 6 ounces each
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch or potato starch (for Passover use potato starch)
- Black pepper
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (click here for the recipe - use the sweetened version), room temperature
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- Fresh pomegranate seeds and mint for garnish (optional)
- Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Rinse the fish fillets in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt, and corn or potato starch. Rub the flesh side of the fillets evenly with the brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the fillets lightly with black pepper.
- Grease a nonstick skillet with olive oil or avocado oil, and heat on medium until hot. Place the fillets skin side up, flesh side down into the skillet, and increase heat to medium high. Allow fish to sear for 1 to 2 minutes until a dark golden crust forms. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan-- this will make the fillets difficult to turn. If the pan seems too crowded, work in batches.
- When a dark crust has formed (it should be crispy and might be a little black in places), use a pair of tongs to gently turn the salmon and let the skin side sear for another minute.
- Remove skillet from heat. At this point, you can transfer the fillets onto a lightly greased baking sheet. If your skillet is oven safe - no plastic handle, heat resistant - you can finish the fillets directly in the pan. Brush each fillet with 1 tbsp of pomegranate molasses - 1 tbsp per fillet, 4 tbsp total.
- Transfer fillets to the preheated oven and let them cook for 8-12 minutes longer, or until the internal temperature reaches desired doneness. Thicker fillets may take longer to cook through. 145 degrees F is considered food safe internal temperature for fish, but salmon tends to dry out at higher temperatures. I prefer an internal temperature of 125 degrees F here for best texture, but know that it is not technically considered food safe - so you may want to cook it to 145 F, depending on your personal health situation. Serve fillets fresh from the oven garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and fresh mint, if desired.