Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce

Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce

The ebony-blue, bursty blackberry fruit was just too pretty to pass up at the market the other day, so I picked up 2 pints, one for breakfast (plain yogurt with a generous drizzle of honey and then topped with the berries) and the other pint to experiment with. I was thinking: Sauce. Brandy. Salmon.

But that night, disaster. Three times I had failed to concoct a stellar sauce. First, too candy sweet, then too annoyingly seedy and the last attempt, I had accidentally added brandy in twice, way too boozy. With no more blackberries to play with, what’s a defeated cook to do, but collapse in a pathetic, wilted heap on the kitchen floor and slam shots of the last tragedy. I gave up.

“Ay ya…young grasshoppa, learn from your mistakes, you will.” Okay, so sure, that voice sounded more Yoda than Confucious, but I really did stop and think about what is that one thing that makes someone a great cook. Because it’s not culinary education (Me ain’t got none), experience in a restaurant (never worked at one before), nor is it the ability to follow recipes to the “T” (can barely color inside the lines, much less follow instructions.)

And then it came to me after trickling down the last bit of blackberry sauce. The element that I was missing was that sour tang, a bright note to cut the sweetness in the sauce and tame the saltiness of the fish. “Ah-ha, grasshoppa! Balance flavors, you must.” The reason why Thai and Vietnamese food is so appealing is that every single dish is a harmonious balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, or as it’s known and easy to remember, the “four S’s”

I grabbed the kids and took off to the market to buy more blackberries, returned home and tried again. Pachinko! Sauce, splendidly harmonized in my Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce.

Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce

I like to stir in the fresh blackberries last, to prevent the delicate but seedy fruit from breaking up in the Blackberry Brandy Sauce. This is also a great sauce for pork chops, or if you’re vegetarian, try this over thick slices of cauliflower “steak.” Slice a head of cauliflower into 3/4 inch thick slices, so that they resemble big, thick, roundish slabs. 1 slab per person. Season and pan fry each side for 2 minutes (you might have to use 2 frying pans) in a bit of olive oil until golden brown. Bake at 250F for 10 minutes until the center can be pierced easily with a fork. Remove, tent and continue on with recipe below to make the Blackberry Brandy Sauce.

Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce

Salmon with Blackberry Brandy Sauce

4 salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick and 6 ounces each
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons seedless blackberry preserves
3 tablespoons brandy
1 pint fresh blackberries
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly season the salmon with a pinch of salt and pepper on each side. In a frying pan over high heat, add the cooking oil. When the oil is very hot, add the salmon fillets, not touching. Fry for 2 minutes, flip the salmon, turn the heat to medium, cover and let cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the salmon is just slightly rare in the middle. Cook an additional minute if you like your salmon cooked all the way through. Remember the residual heat will continue to cook the salmon further after you remove from heat. With a spatula, remove the salmon to a plate and tent loosely with tin foil to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Return the same frying pan on medium heat (you should have some juicy bits and oil still clinging to the pan) whisk together the mustard, chili powder, water, vinegar and blackberry preserves. When the sauce is bubbling nicely, pour in the brandy and whisk. Simmer for 3 minutes until the sauce thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the blackberries and the butter. Stir to melt and incorporate the butter. Taste the sauce, you may want to season with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt if you are using unsalted butter. You can also an additional 1/2 teaspoon blackberry preserves if the blackberries are puckery tart. Too sweet? Add another 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Pour over the salmon and serve.

Serves 4

Comments 44

  1. mochachocolata rita

    a defeated me wud give my misses to sous chef who will finish ‘em all.

    hey! ain’t tryin to treat him like a rubbish bin, but, he thinks: burnt food = goood, undercooked food = goood, underseasoned food = goooddd, all food = gooodddd

    evil evil evil me

  2. Grifola frondosa

    Talk about your cosmic ironies.
    Last night I made a blackberry vinegar using about a pint of fresh picked blackberries and rice wine vinegar.

    It’s a great way to get the taste without the seeds.

    As for fruit with fish especially salmon – put me down for mangoes.

    Blackberry brandy sauce- hmmm, sounds like the makin’s for a great sundae.

  3. kate

    try try try till you succeed :) and you did ! bravo ! have to admit , looks very tempting, as i’ve never had a blackberry savoury sauce.N salmon …deeelicious !

  4. Rachel

    This looks and sounds fabulous. My significant other has tried salmon several times, and it’s just too fishy a fish for him, but this sauce on pork…that sounds like it would be a winner in thise house. Your pictures are beautiful!

  5. Veronica

    mmmmmm

    I love the combination of sweet and savory.

    I will probably forever eat my duck with a fruit sauce. Well, that and maybe roasting it with hoison.

    I will have to try that cauliflower steak one day. It sounds delish.

  6. Laura B.

    mmMMmmmm….definitely will have to try this blackberry sauce, Jaden! Thanks for posting the recipe…I’ve been drooling over your pics on Flickr forEVAH! ;-)

  7. Mike

    Great recovery on the sauce, and I absolutely love the lead photo. That is a sexy looking plate. Also, I never would have thought of such a strong/dark sauce to go with salmon, so you’ve given me some ideas to play around with

    1. Debbie

      seXy? a nice square white plate w/a raised edge is sexy to you? hummmmmmm….nope…can’t see it being sexy.

  8. Kim

    Oh wow! That sounds super yummy and boozy! Do you think the sauce could double as a cocktail base (minus the mustard and chili powder)?

  9. Paula

    Well done, grasshoppa! So glad that you concocted this masterpiece! The picture alone makes me want to do a happy dance! YUM!

  10. finsbigfan

    This looks so good! Thanks for posting the whole prosess. Sometimes it takes more than once to get it just the way you want. Can’t wait to try this as I love to cook with things that are normally associated with one thing (blackberrys = dessert) and flip ‘em around and turn ‘em into something unexpected. It may just be the contrarian in me, but it works (most of the time!)

  11. Carolyn Jung

    I have to admit that when it comes to blackberries, my first thought is of desserts: cobblers, pies, crisps, and scones. But you’ve convinced me that blackberries and salmon make for an ideal pairing. Like the best of marriages, opposites do indeed attract. ;)

  12. Marysol

    Well, I’m speechless (not something that happens often). But, while I may lack the right superlatives on your dish, one thing’s for certain, I’m going grocery shopping.

  13. Manggy

    Mmm, I like that description, “ebony blue.” Disturbingly, I also like the description “candy sweet.” Well, I’m a sweet tooth! Just kidding… I completely understand. Deep, dark balsamic vinegar is indeed the right way to cut through the sweetness. Looks excellent!

  14. Tenina

    Gorgeous pics as usual! Beautiful colors together….will have to try tastes…though we do all have strawberry/raspberry balsamic everywhere..and how could I doubt you…oh steamy queen!

  15. courtney

    Great idea. I like your attitude. I never would have though about cauiliflower steak! Brilliant.I ironically just posted about cauliflower today. Another ides to try.

  16. Robin Cosby

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was so good. I wanted to lick my plate good. Super easy, too. I saw this recipe and knew I had to make it. I had fresh berries, too, ones that I picked myself this afternoon off the bush along the railroad tracks at the end of my block.

  17. Matin

    Wow that looks great, I cant resist black berries either, This is a fantastic new way of using them in cooking:-)
    X M

  18. Zestycook

    Hey Jaden, for one love your site! and second of all – I tried this recipe and absolutely loved it. I made it last night and I was in heaven. Very nice job and I must say great photos. I love coming by your site and having a look. Keep up the good work.

  19. Dana Zia

    You are the first person, other than me of course, that I have found that combines blackberries and salmon! I love it! Since I live on the North Oregon Coast, I thought it was a bonzer of an idea that the Native Americans around here actually used. My sauce is a bit like yours but I hadn’t thought to put the mustard in. Brilliant! I also like to add cumin to it, gives a nice grounding note. Love you blog! Everything, the pictures, the writing, fantastic. I have a small noble blog that wants to grow up to be like yours. It’s the Go lightly Gourmet at http://danazia.wordpress.com/. Thanks for the work, I’ll be back!

  20. Kathy

    You are a hoot! Where have you been hiding (from me?) all my life??? I’m trying your steaks tomorrow night – salmon has to wait. Even if it bombs, I’ll still have a smile on my face! As a fellow foodie and fellow fotog, carry on!

  21. Debbie

    I’m getting my shoes on, and heading out the door to Celilo Falls, on the Columbia Gorge, just 12 miles from The Dalles (home)……to get me some fresh caught Salmon or Steelhead, from the Indian Village…..Yummmmmm! I have tried salmon so many ways and this looks divine……s/o, Bob, seZ St Michelle Reisling will go along GREAT w/this! so dinner is decided!
    thank you Jaden for yet again, another great idea and the O’so easy directions to pull it off!
    *hugs*

    1. Debbie

      …and for the cauliflower steaks?! That will be tomorrow’s dinner! I’ve never heard of cauliflower served this/that way…I am sooooo excited to try it!! ty ty ty

  22. Cheryl

    I was looking for a recipe for Blackberry Brandy sauce, this sounds perfect although I am not a big salmon fan. I just returned from a trip from Montana and there is a resturant there in Butte called The Montana Club and their signature steak is an 8 oz Filet with Blackberry Brandy Sauce. This is the perfect replica….Thank you

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