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Sara's Secrets: Salmon with Black Bean Sauce

What should be a very flavorful sauce for fish becomes amazingly bland with the treatment that Sara Moulton gives the black beans in this recipe. Remove the unnecessary soaking step, and the sauce is vastly improved.

As Moulton explains in the introductory paragraph to this recipe, fermented black beans are small black soy beans that are preserved in salt. You can buy them in the Asian section of well-stocked supermarkets, or at an Asian market. Many American recipes will tell you to soak the beans in water for 10, 15, or even 30 minutes before using them. My chef-instructor at cooking school, however, told me that Chinese cooks do not soak black beans, preferring instead to merely rinse them off. Soaking definitely removes a lot of their pungent, salty flavor.

When I soaked the beans for this recipe, the end result was a bland, boring sauce. I remade the sauce with rinsed beans, and the end result was much tastier. Simply put the beans in a strainer, rinse them well under cool running water, and then drain and chop. No need to soak.

The recipe did take a bit longer to prepare than Moulton's notes indicated, but it's still a quick dinner that can be on the table within about 30 to 40 minutes. Times given below are my adjusted estimates.

Try the salmon with the Butter-Steamed Broccoli with Soy and some steamed white or jasmine rice.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: up to 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

2 Tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed thoroughly, drained, and chopped
Four 6- to 7-oz. pieces center-cut salmon fillet
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 tsp)
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow roasting pan.

Arrange the salmon in the roasting pan, skin side down. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of the oil over the salmon and bake for 10 to 12 minutes for medium-rare, 15 to 20 minutes for well-done.

Heat the remaining 2 tsp oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the rinsed and drained black beans, ginger, and garlic; cook for 1 minute. Whisk together the broth, 1/3 cup water, the wine, cornstarch, and sugar in a bowl and add to the black bean mixture. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve each portion of salmon topped with some of the sauce and sprinkled with some of the scallions.



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