Lightly Cured Salmon - Sunday Dinner with Chef Michael Van Houten

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PhillyBite1Philadelphia, PA - The second season for grilling is in full swing. An incredible time of year to be spending next to the grill, taking in the beautiful aromas of the charcoals burning while enjoying some of the most comfortable weather the year has to offer. This week’s Sunday Dinner recipe really brings to light how to naturally extract the most flavor our ingredients have to offer; lightly cured salmon that’s finished on the grill, with baby bok choy, lentils, and Bottled Thyme’s delicious Bordelaise Sauce as the perfect complement to the salmon.

fire samonLightly Cured Salmon - Sunday Dinner with Chef Michael Van Houten

The process of curing meat may sound intimidating. You may believe the only way to have good cured salmon is by going out to eat or buying the overly priced, pre-cured salmon at the grocery store. Reality is that curing is one of the most straightforward processes in the culinary world. Curing is the process of coating meat in a salt mixture, with the goal of removing as much moisture from the meat as possible. Lack of humidity creates an environment on the meat that means it’s nearly impossible for microorganisms to grow, like this making the meat safely preserved.

SALMON INGREDIENTSThis is one of the world’s oldest forms of food preservation and was vital for the survival of entire societies throughout time. Cured meats can be found throughout every significant culture and date back as far as history has been recorded. A traditional form of cured salmon is known as gravlax, a Nordic dish that has its origins in the middle ages. Fishermen would coat the salmon with salt, sugar, and dill before burying it in the sand above the high tide mark. The sugar is used to help balance the salty flavor in the fish, while the dill incorporated flavor into the meat. Today’s chefs have been curing salmon with a wide variety of flavorings; I personally like the orange and fennel flavor profile. The brown sugar and orange zest provide a citrus brightness to offset the fennel seed, with a well-balanced and exciting dish.

Lightly Cured Salmon - Sunday Dinner with Chef Michael Van HoutenChildren tend to be very curious, hands-on and enjoy being involved in fun activities. They can also be slightly reluctant to touch things that are slimy in nature, such as salmon. In my experience with cooking and children, you can help them overcome this fear by moving the fish with them and showing them that it isn’t as bad as they may think it is. This step may take a little bit of time and a few practice touches, but they should come around soon enough. When it comes time to cure your salmon, you can approach this like a science experiment. Have them assist you in mixing the ingredients for the cure, and by rubbing the mixture into the salmon. Once the curing is complete, have them feel the salmon and see if they can tell the difference in texture; this may spark some questions due to curiosity. That’s the perfect time to teach them about food preservation. For more recipes that will gather the family around the dinner table, visit

Lightly Cured Salmon


8 portion Salmon Filet
1 jar Bordelaise Sauce
2 cup Sea Salt
2 cup Brown Sugar
1 TBSP Fennel Seed – ground
1 TBSP Coriander – ground
1 TBSP Black Pepper
3 Orange – zest

Ingredients – Baby Bok Choy

1 TBSP Oil
2 clove Garlic- minced
1 in piece Ginger – peeled, minced
2 lb Baby Bok Choy – halved length way
To Taste Salt & Pepper

Ingredients - Lentils

1 cup Green Lentils – rinsed
2 ½ cup Chicken Stock or Water
3 slice Bacon – Applewood Smoked – small dice
1 med Carrot – peeled, small dice
1 med Onion – small dice
2 TBSP Oil
To Taste Salt & Pepper

Note – slightly freeze the bacon before you cut it for an easier time.

Process – Lentils

1) Heat oil up in a large skillet on med-high heat. Add bacon and carrots, sauté until bacon becomes crispy; about 3-4 minutes.
2) Add the stock, lentils, and seasoning; bring to a steady simmer.
3) Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until tender, approximately 45-50 minutes.
4) Taste for seasoning before finishing.
Process – Baby Bok Choy
1) In a large sauté pan, heat up oil over med-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 30 seconds. Add the baby bok choy and season; sauté for 2 minutes, flipping halfway through. Add ½ cup of water and cook until it has evaporated. Note you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan. You don’t want to fill the pan more than 2/3 of the way, or it will be overcrowded.


1) In a large bowl, combine salt, brown sugar, coriander, fennel seed, and black pepper; mix until well incorporated. Set aside the zest.
2) In a large roasting pan or cookie sheet, make 8 mounds with half of the curing mixture. Place salmon skin side down on each of the piles.
3) Evenly distribute the zest among the filets. Gently rub into the flesh of the salmon. Evenly coat the top of the filets with the remainder of the curing mixture.
4) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When done curing, rinse off the mixture and then pat dry.
5) Heat up your grill until 350 degrees. Brush fillets with a light coating of oil to prevent sticking to the grill. Place fillets over the direct heat portion of your grill skin side up and cook for approximate 3 minutes before rotating the filets 45 degrees; cook for another 3 minutes before flipping the filets. Cook for another 3-4 minutes before removing from the grill and allowing to rest for 4 minutes before serving.
6) Bring the Bordelaise Sauce up to a simmer.
7) Optional – Cut off the peel to the oranges and slice out the segments. Dip in brown sugar and broil for approximately 2 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized. Top the salmon with the segments for a bonus.
8) Serve and enjoy!


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