Jacques Torres is known for his prowess with chocolate confections, but it was an offhand reference to one of his favorite savory chocolate dishes that caught my attention during his recent visit to our test kitchen at Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.
While waiting for some perfectly tempered chocolate to set in an elaborate dolphin mold (Torres has been infatuated with the aquatic mammals since he and his wife, fellow chocolatier Hasty Torres, had the opportunity to swim with them on a recent trip), Jacques mentioned that he likes to crust salmon with cacao nibs before pan-searing. Seeing our interest piqued, Torres gave a concise little description of how he would coat the flesh-side of a salmon fillet with nibs, cook it, nib-side down, then flip and cook the skin side. Parfait! I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
For those thinking, “chocolate and fish?!,” don’t be alarmed. Cacao nibs are made by breaking up the whole roasted and shelled cacao beans into small pieces. The beans themselves have a rich, earthy and rather bitter flavor (as anyone who has bitten greedily into a piece of baker’s chocolate can tell you). It isn’t until the beans are ground and blended with sugar that become the familiar sweet treat.
As it turns out, the nutty flavor and crunchy texture of roasted cacao beans are a delightful complement to the fish. Not to mention, a stunning presentation. But we wouldn’t expect anything less from “Mr. Chocolate.”
To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.
Crunchy Cacao-Crusted Salmon
Both the salmon and the cacao nibs are quite rich, so serve this dish with a light, bright side, like field greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil.
4 skin-on salmon fillets
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup roasted cacao nibs (not raw nibs)
- Drizzle the flesh side of the salmon fillets with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the flesh side with an even layer of nibs, pressing them gently into the fish to help adhere.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the fillets to the pan, flesh side down, and cook, pressing gently with the back of a spatula, until the nibs are toasted and the surface of the fish is cooked, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish and cook, skin side down, until just barely cooked through (from the side it will look like there is a thin line of deep pink running through the center of the fillet), 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Transfer to plates and serve.
Note: Most cacao nibs you find in the market are roasted, but it is possible to get them raw, so just have a look at the label.
Special Fork is a recipe website for your smartphone and PC that solves the daily dinnertime dilemma: what to cook now! Our bloggers blog Monday through Friday to give you cooking inspiration. Check out our recipe database for quick ideas that take no more than 30 minutes of prep time. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.