Monday, August 15, 2011

Grilled Salm-wich with Pickled Red Onions and Parsley Aioli

Salmon is my favorite type of seafood to cook at home because it cooks well in a variety of methods and is typically the only seafood my sister will eat. It's easy to find and somewhat reasonably priced, although the price has gone up over time coercing me to use it more as a home-cooked delicacy rather than on a weekly to biweekly basis.

I made this sandwich for a family dinner on a Friday night and it turned out to be quite a hit. The pickled onions and parsley aioli played well with each other as the acidity of the onions was counterbalanced by the smooth, cool and creamy texture of the aioli. Neither of the condiments overpowered the salmon, thus allowing the fish to remain the star.

The bun was no afterthought either. An old college roommate and good friend of mine once told me that anybody can make a decent patty, but what really sets a good burger apart from an ordinary one is the bun. At the time we were comparing different burger joints we'd been to in San Diego, but I decided the same theory should be applied here as well. Sticking the salmon between any two slices of bread would have done the fish no justice. The bun I used for this sandwich is an onion roll, soft and warm, that goes well with the garlic in the aioli and helps pick up some of the onion flavor from the pickled onions.

Grilled Salm-wich with Pickled Red Onions and Parsley Aioli

Serves: 4
Total Time: About 20 minutes

2-3 cups boiling water
1 medium red onion
1 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbls. whole black peppercorns
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
1 tbls. dried oregano
2 lbs. skinless salmon
2 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. dill (I had to use dry, but if you have fresh please use it!)
1/2 fresh lemon
1 bag mixed baby greens
1 fresh tomato, sliced (bonus points if it's home grown)
Parsley Aioli (recipe follows, make in advance)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 good quality onion rolls

1. Begin making the pickled onions by bringing 2-3 cups of water to a boil. This water is used to blanch the onion, so make sure all of the onion slices can be submerged.

2. While the water is boiling, thinly slice the red onion. Once the water begins to boil, place the onions into the pot and allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.

3. As the onions blanch, pour white wine vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan. Turn on the heat and add black peppercorns, garlic and oregano. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes so the flavors may all come together.

4. After the onions have finished, remove from heat and drain. Place them into the vinegar liquid after the mixture has simmered for the allotted time. Allow the onions to simmer in the liquid for an additional minute or two. Finally, pour the pickled onions into a jar and set aside. Let the onions cool to room temperature before using.

5. Prepare the salmon by cutting the fish into four uniform pieces. Drizzle 1/2 tbl. on each piece of salmon. Use your fingers to rub the oil around and coat both sides of the fish. I tend to use very little oil when I cook, but if you need a little more go for it. Set the salmon aside.

6. Preheat a griddle on your stove top to medium-high. Apply a layer of cooking spray or oil to ensure the fish won't stick.

7. Once the pan is heated, place each piece of salmon on the griddle. You should hear a nice sizzle as the heat sears the outside of the fish. Wait about 6 to 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fish), flip and cook on the opposite side for another 2-4 (again, depending on the thickness).

8. Set the fish aside and use the same griddle to lightly toast the insides of the onion rolls. Toast them to your desired crunch and remove.

9. To assemble the sandwiches, place the bottom half of a bun on a plate. Spoon out some pickled onions with a slotted spoon (it's no problem at all if they aren't quite to room temperature yet) and form a layer on the bun. Put the salmon on top of the onions and use the fresh lemon to squeeze a few drops of juice on the fish. Top with mixed baby greens, tomato slices and a generous dose of the Parsley Aioli. Cap everything off with the second half of the bun and enjoy!

1. The pickled onions can be made in advance and refrigerated. You may also choose to make more to store in the fridge for future meals, as I ended up using all of the onions for these sandwiches. Also, add more sugar if you'd prefer more sweetness to help cut the acidity of the vinegar.

2. It is important to let the salmon come to room temperature after it's seasoned. A uniform temperature will help the fish cook evenly. The salmon can be cooked any way you prefer. It can be baked, broiled, grilled, etc. I typically grill my salmon, but I chose to use the stove top because I needed to keep an eye on them while doing other things in the kitchen.

3. Obviously, the order in which you layer the sandwich is of minuscule importance. I was just going with it the first time I made these. Next time I may consider dicing the tomatoes a bit and tossing the greens and tomatoes in the aioli to top off the sandwiches. I may also smear some on the bottom half of the bun. Play around with it though. As long as the flavors are all there, it's all good.

Now, I have a confession to make when it comes to the Parsley Aioli. It's not really an aioli, in the sense that it's not mayonnaise-based. The creaminess comes from Greek yogurt! I don't prefer to use mayonnaise or other rich, fat laden creamy ingredients very often, so anytime I can experiment with Greek yogurt as a substitute, I go for it.

Parsley Aioli

Makes about 1 cup.
Total time: 5 minutes plus chill time

6 oz. plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic
3 pickle slices (sandwich size)
2 tbls. fresh parsley
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all components in food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

2. Allow the aioli to chill in the fridge for a bit so the flavors can marry.


  1. All that Food Network watching finally produced something! I'll probably try one of these when I get back to SD.

    Keep it up!