Every couple of months, we visit the kitchen of a top Vancouver chef and get the scoop on an easy but impressive recipe from his catalogue. Today, we consult with Frank Pabst, executive chef at Blue Water Café + Raw Bar, who tells us how to prepare fresh B.C. salmon with a French flair.
Before moving to Vancouver, Chef Pabst lived in the south of France, which inspired him to create this recipe. “In the south of France, you work a lot with fennel, thyme, olive oil, tomatoes and olives,” he says, adding that the key ingredient is high-quality salmon. “Make this recipe when you can get your hands on fresh, wild salmon. This is the only salmon that we use at the restaurant and the only kind that I would recommend using.” When making this dish at home, Pabst gets his Ocean Wise fish from Seafood City on Granville Island.
Wild Spring Salmon with Braised Fennel, Vanilla and Green Olives
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and cut in 6-inch pieces each
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry, crisp chardonnay
3 cups chicken stock
24 small organic green olives, pitted
2 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped but pod reserved
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tbsp parsley
12 grape tomatoes, halved
4 fresh, wild spring salmon fillets,
5 oz each, skin removed
2 Tbsp olive oil, for searing salmon
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan on medium heat.
Add fennel, garlic, shallots, thyme and bay leaf and sauté for about five minutes until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
Deglaze the pan with wine and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir in olives and Roma tomatoes. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and braise in the oven for about 20 minutes until vegetables are just tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer fennel and olives to a second oven-proof pan and set them aside.
Add fennel seeds and vanilla bean, both seeds and pod, to the remaining liquid and cook it on medium-high heat until it has reduced by half, about 12 minutes.
Discard the vanilla pod. Purée the braising mixture in a blender, then pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 F.
Add parsley and grape tomatoes to the fennel and olives. Pour the sauce over the fennel mixture, toss well to combine, and keep warm in the oven.
Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper then add olive oil to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, add the salmon and sear for two minutes on each side.
“It’s very important to not overcook the salmon,” says Pabst. “I know a lot of people like their fish well done, but it really dries it out. I like to keep the salmon more on the medium-rare side; it keeps the moisture inside.”
Place three pieces of fennel in each of four large, shallow bowls. Add a quarter of the sauce, then top with a fillet of salmon and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Pabst suggests serving the dish with a pinot blanc from B.C. or Alsace.
Image courtesy of Blue Water Café + Raw Bar.