If there has been one unifying ingredient as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project, it has been maple. This is not surprising given the prominence of this ingredient in our airport gift shops and the fact the leaf is emblazoned on our flag. It’s also not surprising, then, that it has shown up in a number of my contributions to this project already, especially as in the heart of a maple producing region. It’s for that reason that my intention this month, as part of the project, was to visit a maple farm and share with you the process of how it is collected and made, from tree to table. And it was my further intention to transform that harvest into a unique recipe for you all.
Well, the truth is, we live life because it can’t be predicted … you must live each day to discover what surprises it will bring. As for surprises, well to start, we’ve had a long long winter in Ottawa which while it was great for cross-country skiing, it has nevertheless been long and cold and, as a result, the sap has been late in running this year. And if that weren’t hiccough enough, as some of my very kind and constant readers have discovered, my life has been turned a bit on its ear the past month, with everything from change at work, challenges within my relationship, sickness, and now the sad news that my dog is entering the final chapter in our life together. And so even while this blog is much more than a hobby to me — it is creative outlet for a passion that runs deep — some of my plans for it have nevertheless been slowed … and this month’s contribution to the Food Project has been limited to just the unique recipe which I was still able to create: maple-teriyaki salmon.
In truth, it is designed to be a simple simple recipe … because I wanted the maple to shine yet still be in a balance of flavours. It’s what I’ve chosen to call “Simple by Design — For a Taste Divine.” Yes, I’m going to trademark that :).
I’ve made my own teriyaki sauce a few times, but not for a number of years. Why I stopped, I can’t quite say because to make it is easier than almost any other glaze or sauce. And to do it yourself means that not only do you save money, you control the ingredients and can ensure it is organic, gluten-free (if you want), and free of MSG and any other nasties. And, so yes, since I (re)created this, I’ve been asking myself why I ever stopped making it in the first place….
Anyway, the notion was to replace the conventional sugar that gives teriyaki its sweetness with maple syrup instead and give a Canadian twist on this classic Japanese sauce. The trick in the substitution is the same one we all face in any substitution of a solid ingredient with a liquid one, and that is keeping the ‘water’ in balance to maintain consistency. This was the principle dilemma I had in concocting my maple-apple jelly as well. Nevertheless, as soy sauce is the other main liquid ingredient in teriyaki, you know that just omitting the water would present a new challenge: salt. My solution was to draw on my experience having lived in China and to use the lesser known “dark soy” (which is principally a Chinese ingredient and which contrasts with “light” coloured soy) which has three complementary features: less sodium, more thickness, and more sweetness by way of the caramel in it. For those seeking a gluten-free alternative, use a “lite” tamari sauce where the “lite” in this case refers to low sodium.
The maple-teriyaki sauce can be made any time in advance … if time is really an issue. However, it doesn’t take long to make it alongside the salmon which will cook in 20 minutes or less. Yes, not only is this “Simple by Design — For a Taste Divine,” it’s also quick!
Cooking Tips and Notes: A few other quick tips. You can ultimately use any salmon you’d like for this recipe, but my preference is for the more delicate, less oily, and slightly milder wild-Pacific salmon. It also tends to be smaller which means it cooks faster. Therefore, you will need to adjust your cooking times for thicker cuts of fillet. Next, you should note that cooking a whole fillet (vs. individual servings) presents a couple of important nuances. First, it takes longer to cook a whole fillet … but it will be moister. However, when you cut a cooked fillet into serving sizes, it will break and flake apart in a ragged mess … which impacts presentation. For that reason, I choose to divide the fillet into portion sizes before cooking instead. All to say, the most important note is the one which is true of any seafood — don’t overcook it! Finally, I unusually chose to place the sesame seeds directly on the salmon and under the sauce — this was intentionally done to provide a surface that would help the teriyaki sauce ‘stick’ to the salmon and not run off during baking.
Sauce time: 10 minutes
Salmon time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1/4 (60mL) cup dark soy sauce
→ Substitute 1/4 cup lite tamari sauce for gluten-free
- 1/3 cup (80mL) real maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) apple cider vinegar
→ Substitute rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons (7½ mL) fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) fresh ginger, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon (½mL) chile paste (optional)
- 1/2 tablespoon (7mL) cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) cold water
- 1½lbs (750g) Wild Pacific salmon fillet, cut into servings
- 1-2 tablespoons (30mL( sesame seeds
- 1 green onion, diced
- Preheat the oven to 325 ºF (160ºC) In a small saucepan, measure together the soy, maples syrup, Mirin, vinegar, and sesame oil … and, optionally, a pinch of chile paste if you want a bit of a ‘kick’ to your teriyaki.Mince the garlic and ginger and add it in as well.
Heat the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to rolling boil, and simmer for another 2 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning. The intention is to “cook” the ginger and garlic and slightly thicken the sauce. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.Meanwhile, in small bowl, measure the cornstarch and sprinkle in the cold water. Whisk it together until smooth and incorporated and no lumps.Now, slowly drizzle in some of the teriyaki sauce to temper the cornstarch mixture … and whisk smooth.Pour this mixture back into the rest of the teriyaki sauce in the saucepan and whisk well.
Return saucepan to medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer. Simmer for another 1½-2 minutes …
… until cornstarch has been activated and the sauce is just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the salmon.
- Wash and dry salmon and cut your fillet into desired serving sizes and place them on a slightly oiled baking pan.Sprinkle with sesame seeds.Top with teriyaki sauce.Turn oven to broil and place salmon under broiler for 3-4 minutes. Turn oven back to 325 and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness of your salmon.Remove from oven when salmon barely flakes with a fork. Let stand for about 5 minutes while sauce thickens then serve with dice green onions.