So here we are, right in the middle of winter. It’s cold and snowy in my neck of the woods, and the vegetables are starting to all meld together for me … potatoes, parsnips, squash …. but what a pleasant surprise to come across this very special ingredient!
Meyer lemons, aptly named for the man who identified it in the early 20th century: Frank Meyer. They have a distinctly fragrant scent, with a soft thin skin. The flavor is a cross between an orange and a lemon, mildly tart. They generally appear in January and will be around until about May.
In my research I came to find that several years after Mr. Meyer discovered this variety and brought it to the U.S. from China there was a virus that attacked and pretty much wiped out all the trees. For several decades the USDA banned the Meyer lemon variety to ensure the basic lemon would remain safe. The variety we have today was reintroduced in the 1970’s and gained recognition when Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse, began using it. Further fame of this fruit is owed to Martha Stewart as well.
Meyer lemons, as with regular lemons or oranges, are what I consider a supporting character. Except for perhaps making a drink like lemonade, you would use this ingredient to support something else. So I got to thinking: what could I do to use this in a couple of applications? On a recent visit to Tarry Market I not only found the beautiful Meyers above, but also found this delicious butter from Parma.
I made salmon over the weekend and decided to use the Meyer in two ways: as a crust for the fish, and also as a compound butter. Compound butters are just about the easiest thing to make and the ingredients infinite. They are primarily used to melt over a main ingredient like vegetables, meat or fish to enhance the flavor. They can also be used as the base of a tea sandwich or canapé.
For this particular compound butter I used a variety of fresh herbs, garlic and of course the zest of my Meyer.
More after the jump
After a good mincing of it all together I mixed 1 tablespoon into my softened stick of butter, along with the juice of the Meyer.
Then form it into a log and place it back in the ‘fridge to firm up. This will hold up beautifully in the freezer for future use. Simply wrap tightly in plastic and then place in a heavy freezer zip lock bag. When you want a pat, simply slice it off with a sharp heated knife.
With my remaining herbs I made a simple crust on the salmon pieces, after brushing them with a grainy dijon mustard and maple syrup mix.
Here are a couple of my tips for searing salmon: first, keep the skin on. That will help the filet stay in one piece. Sear on the meat side first to get a pretty top crust.
With a pair of sturdy tongs gently flip the filet when the crust has formed and can move easily from the pan. If it does not give away, then leave it for another minute. You want the crust to stay on the fish, not in the pan! Remember not to over cook the salmon. Once I flip it I keep an eye on it as it cooks. When the color changes from the bottom up leaving about a quarter of an inch of rareness I turn off the heat and let the filet finish with the carryover cooking. All together it should be about 10 minutes. Thicknesses vary, so make sure you keep an eye on the fish!
If you’ve never tasted a Meyer now is your chance. Pick up a couple and try them out. You won’t be disappointed.
- 4 6oz salmon filets
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons natural maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs, recipe below
- Meyer lemon-fresh herb compound butter, recipe below
- 1 Meyer lemon, quartered
- Brush the entire salmon filet with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl mix the mustard and syrup and brush over the filets. Divide the herbs between the filets and gently spread out and pat down, ensuring it sticks to the fish.
- Heat a non-stick pan and in drizzle a small amount of oil. You only want to lightly coat the pan. When the pan is just about smoking lay the filet gently down on the herb side and turn down the heat slightly. You want a nice sear and color, but not burnt. Cook for about 5 minutes. Using sturdy tongs carefully flip the filet to the skin side and cook for about another 5 minutes.
- Keep and eye on your filets. When you see just about a 1/4" of rareness in the middle turn off the heat and allow the filet to finish cooking with the carry-over heat.
- Remove from pan and top with a 1/4" slice from the compound butter and serve immediately with a piece of Meyer lemon to squeeze over the fish. .
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed from stem
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stem
- 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
- 1 scallion, sliced thin
- Zest of 1 Meyer lemon, and the juice of 1/2
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
- With a very sharp knife finely mince the herbs, garlic, scallion and zest. You should have about 1/4 cup.
- Place the softened butter in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the herb mix. Set the rest aside to use for the salmon. Whip with a hand mixer or wooden spoon. Add the juice and incorporate well. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
- Scrap the butter out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a 1 1/2" log. Place in the 'fridge to firm up. If not using immediately, once firm, place into a heavy zip lock bag and into the freezer.
- To use simply heat a sharp paring knife under hot water and slice off as needed.
Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.