Simple to prepare, yet tastes so incredibly good. The star is the salmon poached in miso dashi broth. Dashi is all about umami, and it is present here in abundance, reinforced by shiitake mushrooms and miso.
Key ingredient 1: Miso Dashi
French cuisine has its mother sauces. Dashi has a similar status in Japanese cuisine. It is more a flexible technique to maximize umami flavour in a broth than a specific recipe. To learn more, several suggested resources are the excellent dashi guide at seriouseats.com, this Japan Centre post, and watching the first season of the great Netflix series, The Mind of a Chef. Don’t stop watching there, though. The remaining episodes and seasons have a lot more to inspire the home chef.
Japanese chefs spend many years perfecting their dashi preparation technique. Even so, the results from my neophyte efforts prove that even an approximation of this art came to be so so good, so delicious. I need to point out that the onion and carrot are not part of the traditional dashi method. Those are my additions to give a little more body so that, with the miso, the dashi stock becomes a tasty broth.
Technically the shiitake miso dashi is a “first dashi” or Ichiban dashi, intended for use in a broth such as this or a ramen noodle dish. The “second dashi”, or niban dashi, can be used in stews or sauces where the refinement of Ichiban dashi is less important or noticeable.
Key ingredient 2: Poached Salmon
It wasn’t just the shiitake miso dashi broth that made this dish so good. Everything else was good too… the leeks, carrots, and salmon poached in the broth, topped by the crisp and tasty salmon skin and nori.
I wrote that this salmon poached in a shiitake miso dashi recipe is simple to prepare. At first sight, the recipe might not seem simple. And there is no doubt you will need to plan ahead for this one. While there are many steps, they are simple steps.
Salmon poached in miso dashi with leeks and baby carrots
Leeks and baby carrots
- 4 leeks 300 g after trimming
- 12 baby carrots
- 400 g salmon fillets skin on, sized for 4 servings
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil canola or a light olive oil
- In a saucepan, bring the 6 cups of water up to 60 degC. Plunge the kombu into the water. Maintain 60 degC for 1 hour.
- Peel and dice the onion, garlic, large carrots, and ginger.
- Bring a large saucepan to a medium heat and add the oil, onion, garlic, carrot and ginger.
- Saute the vegetables until the onion starts to soften.
- After the kombu has been steeping in the 60 degC water for 1 hour, remove it and set aside.
- Add the kombu water and the dried shiitake mushrooms to the sauteed aromatics in the large saucepan.
- Bring to a very gentle simmer and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Strain the broth through a fine sieve into another saucepan. Set aside the shiitake mushrooms, carrot and onion.
- Add the bonito flakes and steep in the broth for 10 minutes.
- Strain the dashi broth through a fine sieve or muslin, then return to a wide saucepan. Discard the steeped bonito flakes.
- Add the Tbsp of mirin to the dashi.
Leeks and baby carrots
- Trim the outer layer, root end, and green parts from the leeks. Cut the leeks in 3 cm long pieces.
- Bring the strained dashi up to a simmer and add the leaks. Put the top on the saucepan. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until reasonably soft and easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
- Remove the leeks from the dashi and set aside.
- Wash the baby carrots ensuring there is no grit. No need to peel them.
- Add the baby carrots to the simmering dashi. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.
- Remove the carrots from the dashi and set aside. Remove the dashi from the heat.
- If your leeks are quite small, like the same thickness as the carrots, you could simmer them together.
- Rinse the salmon fillets and dry with paper towels. Season both sides with a sprinkling of salt and return to the refrigerator. Normally you would let it come to room temperature, but we only want the skin to get crispy. The salmon flesh will cook later in the dashi broth.
- Bring a pan to a high heat and add the oil.
- Lay the salmon fillets in the pan, skin side down. Sear for 4 minutes or until the skin is crisp.
- Remove the fillets from the pan to a chilled plate and let sit skin side up.
- When nearly ready to serve, bring the dashi broth back to a simmer.
- In a shallow pan, perhaps the one the salmon was cooked in, add the salmon, skin side up. Ladle in some dashi broth. There should be just enough broth to be just below the level of the salmon skins.
- Simmer the salmon for 5-6 minutes.
- Remove salmon from the pan and set aside.
Bringing it all together
- Strain the dashi broth used to poach the vegetables and salmon back into the saucepan containing the other portion of dashi broth.
- Mix two tablespoons of the broth into the miso until smooth, then add back to the broth and stir.
- Reheat the leeks and carrots in a microwave.
- Give the salmon skins a blast with a butane torch, or quickly under a hot grill, as they may have softened a bit during the poaching.
- In shallow warmed bowls, serve a few pieces of leek, a few baby carrots, and a salmon fillet. Pour over the miso dashi broth.
- Garnish with some nori.