Pan-seared Salmon with Cilantro-mint Chutney

Pan-seared Salmon with Cilantro-mint Chutney

Pan-seared Salmon with Cilantro-mint Chutney, Photography by America’s Test Kitchen

Spices: You probably have a cabinet full of them, but do you know how to make the most of them? Spiced opens up the world of possibility hidden in your own pantry, with six chapters, each of which shares a way to use spices to amp up the flavour of your cooking, along with foolproof recipes that put these simple techniques to work.

Sprinkle a finishing salt you make from sea salt and herbs on seared white fish fillets to make them special. Make a different roast chicken every week by applying a different rub. Learn the best spices to use in curries–and when to add them for fragrant (not dusty) results.

Add flavour—and texture—with homemade blends (you’ll eat your spinach when it’s topped with pistachio dukkah). Infuse condiments with spices (try chipotle ketchup on a burger). With the following six simple techniques, plus vibrant recipes, you’ll find yourself not only spooning chilli powder into the chilli pot but making the chilli powder yourself, or flavouring desserts with saffron or cardamom rather than just cinnamon.

  1. Season smarter with salt and pepper. You’ll learn about brining, using peppercorns of all colours, and making finishers like sriracha salt.
  2. Give meat and vegetables a rub. We’ll provide blends that you can put to use in our recipes (try juniper and fennel on salmon) or your own.
  3. Bloom and toast. Bring out ground spices’ complexity by cooking them in oil; unlock dried chiles’ fruity or nutty flavours by toasting them.
  4. Finish foods with flair. Spice-and-nut/seed blends likes shichimi togarashi (a mix of spices, orange zest, and sesame seeds) add texture, too.
  5. Let spices steep. Infuse spices into condiments like pickled fennel that punches up chicken salad or rosemary oil to drizzle over bruschetta.
  6. Bake with spices. Go beyond vanilla by rolling doughnuts in strawberry-black pepper sugar. Make your own rose water and add it to pistachio baklava.

Spiced: Unlock the Power of Spices to Transform Your Cooking, America's Test Kitchen

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Pan-Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

Why this recipe works: Pan-searing salmon sounds straightforward: Simply cook fillets in oil in a hot pan on both sides until nicely browned on the exterior but still pink on the interior. But there’s a flaw: While inevitably rosy at the thickest point, a fillet becomes a bit overcooked and dry st the thinner end.


We brine meat all the time and found that the technique applies just as well to fish. Brining took just 15 minutes for the salmon—not much time at all—and it both seasoned the fish deeply and kept every centimetre moist. Leaving the skin on the fillets further protected them during cooking.


Additionally, the skin releases fat into the pan, which is then used to sear the second side until crisp. This salmon was excellent with just a squirt of lemon, but a cilantro-mint chutney was easy to make, and its bright, herbal flavours balanced the salmon’s richness.


To ensure uniform pieces of fish that cooked at the same rate, we found it best to buy a whole center-cut fillet and cut it into four pieces ourselves. Using skin-on salmon is important here; the skin can be peeled off before serving. If using wild salmon, cook it until it registers 120 degrees. For a spicy chutney, reserve and add the jalapeno ribs and seeds.


Serves 4


2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt


1 (2-pound) center-cut skin-on salmon fillet, 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick
salt and pepper
  1. For the chutney: Process all ingredients in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of jar with spatula after 10 seconds.
  2. For the salmon: Cut salmon crosswise into 4 fillets. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge salmon in brine and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove salmon from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle bottom of 12-inch nonstick skillet evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place salmon skin side down in skillet and sprinkle tops of fillets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat skillet over medium-high heat and cook fillets without moving them until fat begins to render, skin begins to brown, and bottom 1/4 inch of fillets turn opaque, 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Using 2 spatulas, flip fillets and continue to cook without moving them center centers are still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and register 125 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer fillets skin side down to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with chutney.
Recipe reprinted with permission from America’s Test Kitchen.


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