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This simple easy process results is an outstanding way to season and flavor fish. I think it best works with fattier fish like salmon, steelhead trout and the like. However, it works great with meaty white fish too. One of the most famous renditions is by chef Nobu Matsuhisa where Miso-cured Black Cod is a signature dish at his restaurants. A quick google search by his name will quickly result in several versions of his recipe. For my dish I adapted a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh’s book “Washoku”. Rather than broil it in an oven as is usual I grilled it over charcoal. Broiling of course works in a pinch but grilling the fatty fish really results in a superb result with crispy crunchy skin, some charring in spots and a meltingly tender medium-rare flesh.
To start the process I cut the fish into 4-6 ounce pieces and salted them for 20 minutes. I then dried rinsed off the salt and prepared the miso cure/marinade. In a bowl I put white miso, mirin, sake, sugar and lime zest.
The fish marinates for a few hours at least and we do not want it to get terribly salty from the miso. So, I spread half of the miso marinade in a dish and top it with a moistened layer of coffee filters (cheesecloth works great too but with coffee filter paper there is no washing the sticky stuff later!). Then goes the fish on the paper and I put another layer of wet coffee filter paper on top and then spread the rest of the marinade. This firms up the flesh of the fish, flavors it and seasons it with salt. I covered the whole thing with a plastic wrap sheet and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours (4 at least and up to 12).
When the fish is ready to cook, light a grill to medium-hot, but more hot since you want that skin to sear and crisp quick. Take the fish out of the marinade. Note how slippery and shiny it seems. I like that. I rub it with a little oil to help it not stick and grill it skin side down. I grill it like that almost 90% of the way (about 4 minutes or so depending on the grill and its heat) and then flip it to barely cook the other side, about 30 second to a minute. This helps make the skin very crisp and leaves the interior mostly in the medium range area the way I like it.
To server it I wanted a big green salad of sorts. We’ve been loving all kinds of kale salads such as the one i make frequently with steaks (the Barbuto recipe I posted about here). This time to stick with the Japanese theme I tossed finely shredded kale with a dressing flavored with ginger, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and Doenjang (sorry, yes this is Korean so if you want to stick with Japanese, a red miso works here!). The key is to not underdress the salad. Kale is tough and rough and loves dressing! For a large bunch of kale you probably need a half cup (120 ml) of dressing.
It should go without saying that I also made Japanese rice with this. Nothing works as well for a starch with a meal like this and when done well it is awesome. I use a rice cooker to cook it in and the ratio is equal parts rice to water by volume, but there are a few key steps that help make this great.
- Buy Japanese short grain rice, labeled sushi rice.
- Rinse it very well. I add water to the pot with the rice, swish with my hands and drain. Do this AT LEAST 5 times.
- Add the water that you want to cook the rice in to the rice (1:1 ratio) and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.
- Cook according to the rice cooker instructions.
- Even if you do not have a rice cooker, these steps are the same and work well on the stove top. Just start with high heat, when it boils lower the heat to low, cover and let it gently cook for 15 – 20 minutes. The timing of course varies a bit depending on the quantity and your stove.
Put a pile of rice on the plat, lay a fillet of fish next to it along with lots of the tart well-dressed salad. The flavors with the salty sweet and huge umami along with the fattiness of the fish and the flavor of the grill are a perfect match to the mild rice and punchy salad. This is a great dish for any season.
Miso Marinated Grilled Salmon
Adapted from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku
- 1 Kg(2 lb) Salmon fillets, skin on (about 4 – 6 pieces)
- 1 Tbsp Salt (I shoot for 1.5% of the weight of the fish so about 10 gr)
- 120 gr (about 1/2 cup) white miso
- 3 Tbsp Mirin (I make mirin by mixing a ratio of 1:3 sugar to sake by volume), or you can buy it
- 2 Tbsp Sake
- Finely grated zest of one lime (optional)
- A few spoons of vegetable or canola oil for grilling
- Sprinkle the salt all over the fish fillets, focusing more on the flesh side than the skin side. Let the fish sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse the salt off and pat dry well.
- Cut cross-wise slits in the skin of the fish barely cutting through the flesh. This will help it cook more evenly and avoids it tightening and curling up.
- Whisk together the miso, mirin, sake and lime zest. The consistency should be that of a spreadable loose paste.
- In a shallow plate that will fit the fish in one layer, spread half of the miso marinade and cover with wet (not dripping with water but moistened) coffee filters (or a layer of cheesecloth). Place the fish on the filter papaper, add another one layer of damp filter paper or cheesecloth and then spread the remaining marinade on top.
- Cover the platter with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the fridge for 4 – 8 hours. Even as little as 2 will make a difference.
- When ready to cook light a medium hot grill. Remove the fish from ther marinade and rub with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil.
- Place the fish skin side down on the grill and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the skin is crispy and the fish is mostly cooked to medium rare. You should be able to tell by noticing the color change of the fish flesh from all sides. Using a sturdy thin metal spatula, lift the fish and flip it. You might have some sticking but most of the fillets if left long enough on the skin side should come off with no major damage. Cook on the flesh side for about 30 seconds for medium rare or to your liking.
- Serve with Japanese rice and the kale salad.
Kale Salad with Doenjang, Ginger and Sesame Oil
- One bunch curly kale, about 250 gr (8 – 10 oz)
- 1 Tbsp Doenjang (or red miso)
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 1 tsp finely minced or grated garlic
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/4 Cup (60 ml) Rice wine vinegar
- 3/4 Cup Canola or Vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp Sesame oil
- Wash and finely slice the kale including most of the stems. Only discard the thickest 2 inches or so from the bottom.
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well.
- Dress the kale with about 1/2 a cup of the dressing. Reserve the rest in the fridge for up to a month.