Whenever the Jewish holidays arrive, my mind starts wandering to Pomegranate Molasses. I absolutely love this condiment (the homemade kind, not the bottled!), and I’m always looking for new ways to use it. Pomegranate is often eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashanah to represent “new fruit”– a fruit that has just come into season, one that we haven’t yet enjoyed during the year. 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 makes pomegranates one of my favorite holiday ingredients.
Last year, Pomegranate Molasses Brisket was on the menu. This year, I decided to create a new salmon 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 an incredible flavor.
If you want to include this recipe in your holiday menu, here are a few tips to ensure success:
– Use my recipe for homemade 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 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.
The flavor of this salmon is really awesome. The pomegranate molasses combines with the salted brown sugar crust, caramelizing and infusing the salmon with a wonderful teriyaki-like flavor. It’s 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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- 4 boneless salmon fillets, skin on
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cornstarch or potato starch (for Passover use potato starch)
- Black pepper
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (click here for the recipe), room temperature
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- 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.
- Spray nonstick skillet generously with cooking oil and heat on medium high till very hot. Place the fillets skin side up, flesh side down into the skillet and allow to sear for 1-2 minutes till a dark 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 even 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.
- Transfer fillets to the preheated oven and let them cook for 8-12 minutes longer, till internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F or until desired doneness. Serve fillets fresh from the oven garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and fresh mint, if desired.