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Crusted Salmon with Avocado and Red Onion Green Salad

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“For this dish we owe a debt of gratitude to the great chef Daniel Bouloud, who is both a friend and a cooking mentor,” write Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama in “Bacon Nation” (Workman Publishing, $14.95). “His simple recipe for pancetta-wrapped tuna loin is supremely flavorful and combines a cracklingly crisp texture on the outside with smooth tuna, cooked rare, on the inside. We once assisted Bouloud when he made it for President Clinton at a dinner in East Hampton, N.Y. We prepared a few extra portions for his Secret Service detail and their looks of delight meant as much as the rave reviews from the commander-in-chief.

Crusted Salmon with Avocado and Red Onion Salad

Crusted Salmon with Avocado and Red Onion Salad

“For our version we have gone with a similarly fatty fish — salmon. The result is so good our hope is that we, too, can make it for a president some day. Use thin or medium-thick sliced bacon, as thicker-cut bacons will overwhelm the salmon. Make sure to cook the bacon-wrapped salmon on the stove until the bacon is browned and crisp before putting it into the oven. The salmon does not bake long enough to brown the bacon much more once it leaves the stovetop. Since salmon is a fish many people like to eat rare, and even raw, how long you cook the fish depends on how done you like it. Rare salmon has a deep orange color and looks slightly translucent; medium salmon leans more to pink in color with opaque flesh. An instant-read thermometer will  help you gauge doneness, but with salmon it is best to make a small incision into the thickest part of the fish and take a look.”

Crusted Salmon with Avocado and Red Onion Green Salad

For the salmon:
7 to 8 slices thin-cut or regular-cut bacon
1 to 1 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, center cut like a roast (9 to 10 inches long, 1 1/2 inches thick at thickest point and 3 inches wide), pin bones removed
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 packed cups baby spinach, rinsed and patted dry
2 loosely packed cups arugula, rinsed and patted dry
1 ripe avocado
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced

Prepare the salmon: Place a 10- to 12-inch long piece of plastic wrap on a work surface. Arrange the bacon slices side by side on the plastic wrap so that one end of each slice is positioned at the edge of the place wrap nearest you and the slices overlap just a little. Season the salmon very lightly with salt (remember the bacon will add salt) and pepper to taste, and the ginger. Place the salmon across the overlapped slices of bacon, positioning it at one end of the slices. Tuck the thinner end of the salmon under toward the center so the salmon fillet is roughly even in thickness and 7 to 8 inches long from end to end. (You could add a layer of pesto here, if you’d like.) Holding 2 corners of the plastic wrap at one end, roll the bacon around the outside of the salmon fillet, keeping the rows of slices as even as possible. Secure the bacon to the salmon by tying it with butcher’s string or unwaxed dental floss at 1 inch intervals, as you would tie a meat roast. (You can place the string or floss under each strip of bacon at the start, if you prefer.) Wrap the salmon in the plastic wrap and set it aside.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large ovenproof pan over medium heat (a cast-iron skillet works well for this) for about 30 seconds. When the oil is hot, remove and discard the plastic wrap from the bacon-wrapped salmon and add the salmon to the pan. Sear the salmon until the bacon is browned and the fat is rendered, about 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the salmon for 4 to 5 minutes, then use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness, inserting it into the thickest part of the salmon. When the salmon is done to rare, it will register 120 to 125 degrees. For medium salmon, cook the fish as few minutes longer until the instant-read meat thermometer registers 130 to 135 degrees. Once you remove the salmon from the oven, tent it lightly with aluminum foil. The internal temperature will rise another 5 degrees as it sits.

Prepare the salad: Places the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lime juice and mustard in a small mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Or put all of the ingredients for the lime and mustard dressing in a small jar, cover it and shake vigorously just before serving.

Place the spinach and arugula on a serving platter. Slice the avocado and scatter it and the red onion on top of the greens.

To serve, transfer the salmon to a cutting board. Remove and discard the string. Cut the salmon into slices about 1-inch thick and arrange them on top of the salad. Whisk or shake the lime and mustard dressing to fully recombine it and drizzle it over the salmon and salad. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Bacon Nation” by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama

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