Cajun Salmon with Okra, Collards, and Cornbread

This method and list of ingredients looks rather long, but if you already have barbeque sauce and Cajun seasoning, it’s a snap, and so, so delicious.

IMG_0548

Barbeque Sauce

Our particular barbecue sauce had a base of store-bought, jazzed up with soy sauce, liquid smoke, worchestershire  sauce, honey, brown sugar, hot mustard, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a healthy pour of bourbon. Let it reduce slowly for two hours, then taste to adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper.

Store-bought Cajun seasoning would be perfectly fine, but I made my own:

Cajun Seasoning

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. paprika

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. cayenne powder

1 ½ tsp. dried oregano

1 ½ tsp. dried thyme

½-1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes – optional, but not really. We are making Cajun after all.

Southern-Style Cornbread

The cornbread is based on Sean Brock’s version, which he serves at Husk and you can drool over on Mind of a Chef. No flour, just cornmeal.

½ package of bacon, diced as small as you can make it.

2 cups cornmeal, good quality stone ground yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups whole milk buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup maple syrup

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F. Put a round cast-iron skillet (or other heat-proof pan) in the oven to heat up while you make the cornbread.
  2. Preheat another skillet and cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, then drain over paper towels and reserve the fat.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Once drained, stir in the bacon bits. Add all but a spoonful of the bacon fat to another bowl and whisk in the buttermilk, maple syrup and egg. Make sure the fat has cooled a bit and the buttermilk has warmed up a bit at room temperature so the fat doesn’t solidify again upon coming in contact with the buttermilk. Stir the two mixtures until combined.
  4. Remove the skillet from the oven and add the remaining bacon fat and swirl around to distribute it, keeping the pan over high heat on the stove. Pour in the batter – it should hiss and sizzle when it hits the pan.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The top will be yellow but the bottom will be a deep, burnished brown.

Maple Butter

Soften some butter and stir in some maple syrup slowly until it tastes like maple syrup. It really is that easy. Just make sure you add it slowly, so the ingredients have a chance to emulsify. Smear the butter on the cornbread just before serving.

Salmon

Rinse your salmon or other fish pieces (the picture is actually halibut, but when we made this a second time it was better with salmon), pat dry, and oil them with olive oil. Sprinkle on a thin layer of Cajun seasoning evenly and let come to room temperature. Pan-fry in olive oil or bacon fat until medium rare (or however you like it).  If you want, keep the salmon skin in the pan and crank it up to high heat and cover with a lid – because believe you me it will splatter hot bacon grease. Cook until crispy and reserve. This goes great as a crunchy topping on  the fish.

Collard Greens & Okra

Rinse and de-rib the collard greens, then cut into 2-inch wide strips. Rinse and slice the okra on a diagonal, discarding the stems. Cook the okra on medium high heat in olive oil or bacon fat until it begins to soften. Add the okra and cook until bright green and it starts to wilt. Remove from heat and sprinkle in Cajun seasoning to taste.

Arrange it all prettily on a plate and smother in barbeque sauce.

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