Shopping for fresh fish at the supermarket can be very hit or miss. It’s mostly farmed fish from Asia, which is best to avoid for both sustainability and health reasons. The nearest fish market to us isn’t close enough to be on my regular shopping rotation. That leaves frozen fish filets. Those tend to be a little more affordable, but because they are frozen, the quality of the fish declines.
I’ve had lots of bad fish-cooking experiences, where the end result is fish that is both dry and under-seasoned. I’ve found the best way to avoid this result is to bake the fish in a strong marinade.
I’ve developed a simple marinade that pairs perfectly with a full-flavored fish like salmon. It’s a combination of maple syrup and soy sauce, plus garlic and ginger. Mustard or wasabi powder provides and optional kick.
I’ve also tried this marinade on chicken, where it works almost as well. With the chicken the marinade can be a touch too sweet, so avoid letting it sit for too long. This is a perfect marinade to use when making Chinese chicken salad.
The salmon or chicken is baked uncovered in the oven, so it really does get a nice glaze.
My go-to meal is to serve the salmon with a side of Asian vegetables and brown rice. I like the simplicity of snow peas, while my wife prefers a combination of baby bok choy and shitake mushrooms.
This meal will serve two for dinner.
- 1 pound salmon filet (skin on) OR boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard or wasabi powder (optional)
- 1 lb snow peas, ends removed OR 3 heads baby bok choy + 1/4 pound shitake mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
- 1/2 cup brown rice
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a cup of water to a boil and begin cooking the rice. Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, minced garlic, grated ginger, and powdered mustard or wasabi (if using) to make the marinade.
Step 2. Pour the marinade over the salmon or chicken and return to the refrigerator. Marinate 30 minutes for the salmon, up to 1 hour for the chicken. Any more than 1 hour for the chicken and it takes on too much marinade, getting too sweet.
Step 3. After 30 minutes or an hour has passed, bake the salmon or chicken, uncovered. For a salmon filet about 1 inch thick, 20 minutes is the right amount of time. Cook until the fish just flakes. Cook the chicken thighs until they register 165 degrees F, about 30 minutes.
Step 5. If cooking the bok choy and mushrooms, heat a saute pan over medium. First add the bok choy steps, then the mushrooms. Once the stems and mushrooms have cooked, 4-5 minutes, add the leaves. And the garlic chili pepper sauce and a splash of soy sauce.
If cooking snow peas, heat a medium saute pan until it is very hot. Add a drizzle of sesame oil and add the peas, stirring frequently. Cook until the peas have black marks. Season with garlic salt.