Monday, October 22, 2012

Almost a Gastrique

A gastrique is a French syrupy sweet and sour sauce made with caramilized sugar and deglazed with vinegar. Other elements can be added, such as stock, fruit, and wine to produce a plethora of varieties. One of my favorite recipes, from Mark Bittman of The New York Times, is for a mysterious, dark and delicious "Pinot Noir Syrup." Although vinegar is not used to deglaze in this recipe, it does start with caramelizing sugar. Caramelizing sugar can seem scary, but as long as you watch it very closely and are prepared to turn down the heat if it begins to brown too quickly or begins to smoke, it really is a skill worth tackling. If on your first attempt, the sugar burns, throw it out and try again. It's just sugar. In this recipe, it is served with simple roast salmon steaks, but it would be equally delicious on any roasted meat, especially pork. The syrup can be made ahead and any leftover can be refrigerated for another tasty meal!

Roast Salmon Steaks with Pinot Noir Syrup

Serves 4

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups Pinot Noir
1 fresh rosemary sprig, plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped
4 salmon steaks (about 1/2 pound each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick with rounded sides (I don't have one), and turn the heat to medium.

Cook, without stirring (just shake the pan occasionally to redistribute the sugar) until the sugar liquefies and begins to turn brown, about 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and carefully add the wine. Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring, until the caramel dissolves again. Then add the rosemary sprig and reduce over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is syrupy and reduced to just over 1/2 cup, 10-15 minutes.

Heat a nonstick ovenproof skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper, then put it in the pan; immediately put the pan in the oven. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn the salmon and cook for another 3 minutes. Check to see that the salmon is medium-rare or thereabouts (it should be) and remove it and keep it warm, or cook for another minute or two if you like.

When the sauce is reduced, stir in the balsamic vinegar and butter and turn the heat to medium-low.

Cook until the butter melts, add some salt and pepper, and remove the rosemary sprig. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve over the fish, garnished with the chopped rosemary.

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