Salmon is such a versatile fish that it goes well even with sweet flavors, like this fruity red sauce the color of a Pacific sunset. Red papaya (also called Mexican papaya) not only has a more intense color than the golden variety, its flavor and size are pumped up a bit as well. You will find it during its springtime season at Latino markets and well-stocked produce stores, but if you can find only the familiar golden papaya, go ahead and use it. The dish also includes a grapefruit and corn salsa, a wonderful sweet and savory combination enhanced by a coarse salt such as fleur de sel.
SALMON WITH RED PAPAYA TEQUILA SAUCE
Makes: 6 servings
Red Papaya–Tequila Sauce
1 pound ripe red papaya, peeled, seeded, and chopped (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP high-quality silver tequila
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 ears corn, kernels cut off (1 cup)
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and segmented
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-inch dice
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 scallions, white part only, thinly sliced
3 fresh chiles de árbol or 1 serrano chile, seeded, deveined, and minced
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1½ TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
Six 6-7-ounce salmon fillets, preferable sockeye
Olive oil for brushing
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Four-Chile Sauce
3 radishes, very thinly sliced, for garnish
Fleur de sel, sel de Guerande, or kosher salt
- Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to high.
- To make the sauce: Purée the papaya, tequila, and lime juice in a blender until smooth. (The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.)
- Heat a heavy medium skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat. Add the corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Let cool
- To make the salsa: Combine the grapefruit, cooled corn, avocado, cilantro, scallions, chiles, lime juice, and oil in a medium bowl. Set aside. (The salsa can be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered, and stored at room temperature.)
- Lightly brush the salmon on both sides with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Lightly oil the grill grids. Cook the salmon until seared with grill marks on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until grill-marked on the other side and still slightly translucent in the center, about 2 minutes more. Do not overcook the salmon. Transfer to a platter.
- For each serving, spread about 1/3 cup Red Papaya–Tequila sauce in the center of a dinner plate. Top with a salmon fillet and about ½ cup of the grapefruit-corn salsa. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the four-chile sauce around the plate and garnish with the sliced radishes. (You may have extra salsa, which you can serve in bowls alongside.) Sprinkle the salsa with salt. Serve immediately.
Wine Notes: The richness of the salmon requires an equally rich, yet not heavily oaked wine. Try an Alsatian Gewürztraminer (Zind-Humbrecht, Weinbach, or Hugel) or a California Viognier (Miner, Alban, or Terre Rouge).
This recipe was originally published in The Salpicon Cookbook by Priscilla Satkoff with Vincent Satkoff (Chronicle Books).