Salt Sea Shavings (Pan-seared salmon)

Music Pairing: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Deep River


Imagine a taste convergence that invites smoky, slightly sweet and mildly spicy flavors with a crispy yet supple texture…While conventionally, that is likely not a symphony of flavors you think of when imagining salmon, it is such in our kitchen.  At times, anyhow: depending on how we feel about marinades on that particular day…no guarantees.  By no means are we seafood connoisseurs or aficionados, but we do enjoy occasional beautiful salmon or scallop recipes, as well as a whole array of smoked fish ideas…but that is for another time.  Given our limited consumption of fish, we zeroed in on salmon years ago, after the occasion of sharing an appetizer plate at one of our favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor on a date night.  We asked lots of questions on how this salmon was prepared, and after some discussion, decided we will try this at home, but with fillets much thinner/with less body, and pretty much ignoring all of their marinade recommendations (in most cases for us, less is not more!).  From that point forward, we worked on the texture to a point where we decided than it might be optimal to think of these as shavings, not pieces or slices.  Armed with sharp knives, we went to work on experimenting for years, varying not only the texture but also the flavorings/marinades, to finally land upon a few versions we like. While salmon is not native to Great Lakes (our adopted home region), and it’s true that overall salmon numbers are down in Michigan, Manistee, Grand River and other rivers are still abundant with this nutritious source of Omega fats.  And speaking of rivers, we thought we might pair this beloved standard with a beautiful rendition of the spiritual Deep River by Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, performed by a wonderful pianist Lara Downes.  Pour yourself a nice glass of Veuve Cliquot sparkling wine and give this a try!


TOTAL TIME: 12.5 hours (including marinade)

For the marinade:

  • 1 Cup of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 3 oz cilantro
  • 1 C white wine vinegar
  • 1 rehydrated poblano pepper (or 3 serrano pepper)
  • 1 small can of green chili peppers (or tomatillos if you can locate them!)
  • 2 T of smoked paprika
  • 1 t sugar (brown or palm)

For the cooking itself:

  • Olive oil spray
  • 1 T of sumac
  • Fresh raw salmon fillet (about 3 oz/per person: this recipe assumes about 8-10 oz)


  • Get out your food processor and combine all of the marinade ingredients.  Turn them into paste
  • On a cutting board, literally shave/thinly slice your salmon fillets
  • Place the fillet on a flat-bottomed vessel, gently poking each of the shavings with your work
  • Add the marinade and place covered in your fridge for 12+ hours
  • When ready to cook, gently spray and heat your pan and sear the fish on medium heat, appx 5 mins on each side.  Serve immediately, sprinkling the sumac

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