Smothering, Étouffée, is a French cooking technique created by Cajun Creole people. The technique goes back hundreds of years believed to have been developed in Louisiana but has since then spread throughout the South. Smothering is a simple technique that is cooking in a covered pan over low heat with a small amount of liquid. The original recipe was more or less a style of stove top braising. A one pot dish with just a few simple ingredients. A real Southern comfort food.
Unfortunately when we talk about comfort food we have to talk about the high fat and calories that come with it. Smothered food can be exceptionally high in fat due to the use of cheaper cuts of meat. The meat is rendered/browned in a pan and the gravy is made with it’s fat. It might not be the healthiest dish on Earth but it’s guaranteed to be one of the most delicious. I decided to recreate this dish in the same traditional fashion but using healthy wild caught Carolina salmon. Salmon is an incredibly healthy alternative because it’s rich in vitamins and healthy fats that are perfect for this dish. Now instead of a dish thats loaded with saturated fats is now substituted with salmon thats incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids. I first heavily season the salmon, then sear it over medium high heat. By doing this it releases that natural fat from the fish and almost fries it giving it a wonderful crispy consistency on the outside. I stayed with the traditional pan gravy with sautéed onions. My only addition was some sweet cherry tomatoes to add some acidity to the dish. Traditionally smothered food is served on white rice. I simply served it over steamed vegetables because I try and avoid a high carb diet and also because asparagus was on sale at the market.Since moving to the mountains of Asheville I’ve began cooking in a completely different fashion. I will still always incorporate techniques that I’ve learned from my travels around the World. My new lifestyle here will allow me to take the next step into my cooking evolution. I’m looking forward to using the local ingredients and really learn what it’s like to cook below the Mason Dixon line. This recipe is my first step into Appalachian cuisine.
Yields: 4 servings
1 cup Wondra flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning, optional
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup onion, roughly chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 3 oz salmon fillets, skin removed
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix to combine first eight ingredients. Set aside and reserve.
2. In a medium pan over medium heat, saute onions until soft and translucent. About 3-4 minutes.
3. Add garlic, tomatoes and cook until garlic is fragrant and tomatoes are tender. About 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan, set aside and reserve.
4. Return pan to heat, and add canola oil.
5. Dredge salmon in seasoned flour and sear on each side until golden brown and salmon has relesed it’s fat. About 3 minutes per side.
6. Remove salmon from pan and set on paper towel to drain.
7. Add 2 tbsps seasoned flour to pan with rendered salmon fat and mix to create a roux. Deglaze with white wine. Add chicken stock and cook until slightly thickened. About 2-3 minutes.
8. Add salmon and cooked onion/tomato mixture. Simmer covered until gravy is thickened and salmon is cooked through. Re-season with salt and pepper again if necessary before serving. Place salmon on a serving dish and smother with onion and tomato gravy.