Vanilla sauce and pineapple certainly don’t seem like they ought to pair with fish and seafood. Yet this savory sauce along with caramelized fresh pineapple accent the natural sweet notes of salmon and scallops in surprising ways. Just as in desserts, the vanilla highlights the natural flavors of this dish.
As a chef I enjoy playing with food especially deconstructing dishes I’ve enjoyed in restaurants. The recipe I’ve created for this dish was inspired by several variations of these four ingredients over the years. For this dish please resist substitutions.
Vanilla extract will be too intense whereas the natural bean provides a subtle essence of vanilla. Sweet unsalted butter will coat your mouth with flavors in a way oil will not. Canned pineapple is too wet to properly caramelize; seek out a ripe fresh fruit.
Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce
Ingredients for two generous servings
- 2 six ounce wild salmon fillets with skin
- 6 sea scallops, approximately ½ pound
- 3 one inch thick slices of fresh pineapple, skin removed
- 7 tablespoons sweet butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
- kosher salt and white pepper to taste
Ingredients for the sauce
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 1/3rd cup (5 ounces) white wine
- 2 tablespoons grated sweet onion
- 2 tablespoons sweet butter
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons white wine
- kosher salt and white pepper to taste
Place one large cast iron pan and two medium size cast iron or heavy stainless steel sauté pans into a cold oven and preheat the oven to 425° F.
For the salmon, scallops and pineapple
- Lightly season the salmon on both sides with kosher salt and white pepper.
- Dry the sea scallops with paper towel.
- Remove the pineapple skin and cut 3 one inch thick round slices. Slice each round in half. (reserve and refrigerate the remaining fruit for other uses).
- Pull off 1 packed tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves
(Set all these ingredients aside and make the vanilla sauce before proceeding with step 5).
- Using a thick potholder remove the large hot cast iron pan and place it on the stove over high heat – leave the other 2 pans in the oven. Melt 3 tablespoons of sweet butter in the pan, add the fresh tarragon leaves and top immediately with the salmon fillets skin side down. Sauté the salmon for 2 minutes.
- Using a thick potholder, remove the medium pans from the oven and place on the stove. Using the same potholder place the large cast iron pan with the salmon into the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Leave the salmon skin side down as it will become crisp and flavorful.
- Place the medium cast iron or stainless steel pans onto high heat and melt 2 tablespoons sweet butter in each. Sauté the pineapple in one pan until lightly caramelized for 5 to 7 minutes turning half way through.
- While the pineapple is cooking sauté the sea scallops in the other medium pan for about 2 minutes per side.
- When the pineapple and scallops are finished remove the salmon from the oven and follow the plating instructions.
For the sauce
- Slice the vanilla bean in half and gently scrape the seeds into a small saucepan and add the pod. Pour the wine over the vanilla. Over medium heat bring the wine to a simmer and reduce to 4 tablespoons (2 ounces). Discard the pods.
- In a small sauté pan melt 2 tablespoons sweet butter over medium heat and add the grated onion. Gently cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Do not brown.
- Add the onions to the reduced vanilla wine and pour in the almond milk.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons white wine and stir into the almond milk. Simmer gently for 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain the sauce into a small heat proof bowl and keep warm by placing into a larger bowl containing enough hot water to reach half way up the side of the sauce bowl.
(Continue with steps 5 – 9 of the salmon, scallops and pineapple).
To plate the dish
- Cover the bottom of a dinner plate with vanilla sauce. Place one salmon fillet in the center of the plate. Arrange 3 sea scallops on top and/or to the side of the fillet. Arrange 3 half slices of pineapple to the side of the salmon and scallops.
Enjoy this mélange of flavors from the tropics and the sea with a crisp green salad and a dry white wine such as a sauvignon blanc.
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