Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Israeli Couscous and Maple Bourbon Salmon

Salmon and Israeli Couscous

This duo of salmon and Israeli couscous is always a favorite of mine. I first fell in love with Israeli couscous in 2007. After my husband graduated with his undergraduate degree his parents treated us to the nicest restaurant in the county. I had this delicious chicken with a rich white sauce served with Israeli couscous dish. I asked Tyler to imitate it in seafood form for my birthday last year. Here is a photo of that. The coral, salmon, ivory and green colors alone make me swoon!

We tried the couscous again but with salmon a few months ago. I apologize for the lack of quality in the photo (pictured first). I am guilty of not wanting to stop eating to take a picture because it was just too good!

If you cannot find Israeli Couscous in your local grocery store (Look for the larger pearled couscous, they're about the size of a small pea) then check your International or Asian Markets. It cost me about $5 for about 1/2 quart. Also, our Costco just starting selling a delicious pre-made version. And it was nearly as good as this homemade recipe.

For this perfect combination we made this Cooks Illustrated salmon recipe and Giada De Laurentiis' version of couscous.

Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis, via Food Network
Yield: 4 to 6 servings



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook's Note



For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

Poached Salmon with Bourbon and Maple

Serves 4

If skinless salmon is unavailable, follow the recipe as directed with skin-on fillets, adding 3 to 4 minutes to the cooking time in step 2. Remove the skin after cooking (see information below). This recipe will yield salmon fillets that are cooked to medium. If you prefer your salmon rare (translucent in the center), reduce the cooking time by 2 minutes or cook until the salmon registers 110 degrees in the thickest part. Because the cooking time will vary according to the thickness of the salmon, the most accurate way to assess doneness is with an instant-read thermometer.


1 lemon
2 tablespoons bourbon or brandy
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 medium shallot , sliced thin (about 3 tablespoons)
3/4 cup water
4 center-cut skinless salmon fillets , 6 to 8 ounces each
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped chives


  1. 1. Cut top and bottom off lemon; cut into eight to ten 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange lemon slices in single layer across bottom of 12-inch skillet. Whisk bourbon, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, and shallot together in small bowl. Add bourbon mixture and water to skillet.

  2. 2. Place salmon fillets in skillet, skinned-side down, on top of lemon slices (to prevent salmon from coming into direct contact with bottom of pan). Set pan over high heat and bring liquid to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until center of thickest part of fillet is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 11 to 16 minutes (or until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of fillet registers 125 degrees). Remove pan from heat and, using spatula, carefully transfer salmon and lemon slices to paper towel-lined plate and tent loosely with foil.

  3. 3. Return pan to high heat and simmer cooking liquid until slightly thickened and reduced to 2 tablespoons, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat; whisk in butter and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. 4. Season salmon lightly with salt and pepper. Using spatula, carefully tilt salmon fillets to remove lemon slices. Place salmon on serving platter or individual plates; spoon sauce over top and serve.


Removing Skin from Salmon

  • If you can only find skin-on fillets, removing the skin is simple. Transfer the cooked fillet to a paper towel-lined plate and allow it to cool slightly. Gently slide a thin, wide spatula between the flesh and skin and use the fingers of your free hand to help separate the skin. It should peel off easily and in one piece.


Benefits of Belly Fat

A center-cut salmon fillet typically tapers down on one side to the fattier belly of the fish. The belly’s fattiness helps keep this section of the fish moist, despite its thinner profile. The belly area is sometimes covered with a chewy white membrane, which should be trimmed away before cooking. We also like to neaten up any ragged edges that can dry out and fray during cooking.

  • From left to right, meaty center, belly area, white membrane, and ragged edges.


A Fish (Almost) Out of Water

    The classic poaching method calls for submerging salmon completely in liquid in a deep pan, which causes flavor to leach out and leads to dry, flavorless fish.
    In our method, small amounts of liquid allow the salmon to cook at a lower temperature, preserving flavor. Lemon slices under the fillets keep their bottoms from overcooking.

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