When I think of a great weeknight meal, I want lots of flavor with little effort. Salmon, paired with jerk sauce and sweet nectarines, hits the target by being quick and easy to prepare, but hard to stop eating.
What makes this salmon extremely special is the sweet fruit combined with the punch of Island flavor found in Jalapeño Jerk sauce. The succulent sauce blends fresh jalapeños, onions, honey, and all kinds of spices to create a memorable experience for your taste buds.
For The Salmon
- Butter or Oil
For The Jerk Sauce
- Green onions
- Fresh Ginger
- White pepper
- Black pepper
For The Optional Side Of Cauliflower Rice And Veggies
- Olive Oil
- Pigeon Peas
- Purple Onion
Butter or oil
Before beginning to create this flavorful salmon dish, be sure to butter or oil your pan. The butter or oil coating should be thick enough that it overlaps the skin of the salmon when placed in the pan.
Butter and oil add an extra layer of fat to your salmon, creating a more luxurious mouthfeel. The fat then creates a platform on your taste buds for that delicious salmon flavor to linger on.
Oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, or grapeseed oil work well in this recipe. I used coconut oil to boost the island flavor.
Salmon might taste the least fishy of any nautical being. Many households use salmon anytime they are craving fish because this crowd-pleasing favorite tends to satisfy even the pickiest of fish eaters. Salmon is also one of the most readily available fish in grocery stores, and its thick body and fat content make it slightly easier to cook than other fish.
Pairing seafood with island flavors makes sense. You can trust that the ingredients growing near the ocean taste great with the fish that come out of the ocean.
Ultimately, a Jamaican sauce like this jerk sauce melds best with Caribbean fish like snapper, kingfish, mackerel, or whiting fish. These fish can often be hard to find without going to a specialty grocery store or fish market, so you can try pretty much any fish that you find local to you. Tilapia, flounder, and even swordfish would taste great slathered in jerk sauce and paired with nectarines.
Salt, Pepper, and Nectarines
Because the jerk sauce has such an incredibly bold flavor, nectarines, salt, and pepper are all this salmon needs while cooking.
Nectarines taste almost identical to peaches. They are commonly used in salsas and chutneys to add a sweet touch to savory dishes.
Peaches, mangos, or other fruits may be used in place of the nectarine. Keep in mind the level of sweetness should not overpower the flavor of the salmon.
Optional Warm Salsa
For an even better balance of flavor, try chopping onions and nectarines finely and cooking them down with the salmon.
Traditionally, scotch bonnet peppers are used in jerk sauce to add intense heat and bright flavor. The spice level of this pepper is lovely. Unfortunately, finding these peppers and working with them can be difficult.
Because I always have them on hand, jalapeños replace the scotch bonnet to add a zingy spice to my sauce. Most grocery stores carry jalapeños at all times of the year.
I find the heat level of jalapeños easier to adapt to different eaters as well because its gentler spice can be controlled by removing the seeds and cartilage for a less tongue-sizzling heat.
Any spicy pepper can be used in place of the jalapeño. At home, we prefer the spicy scotch bonnet or habaneros, but for lovers of more heat, Thai chilis and ghost peppers (super hot) can be used in place of jalapeños. I suggest cooking the sauce down over low heat rather than leaving it fresh if you plan to use any extremely hot peppers. This will alleviate some of the heat while enriching the subtler flavors of the pepper.
Green Onions And Garlic
In sauces and pastes, onions combine with garlic to develop a more earthy depth of flavor. They play well into the savory components in this dish and make your mouth water with their delicious pungency.
Garlic powder and/or onion powder can replace the onions and garlic. For those who only have yellow or purple onions, these will also taste great in your jerk sauce.
Sweetening your jerk sauce actually heightens the flavor of your peppers and nectarine. The underlying sweetness of the peppers becomes more evident when they are combined with honey. Honey also adds viscosity to your sauce.
Liquid agave or other liquid sugar substitutes can be used in this recipe.
Soy is often used for its “umami” flavor. The term umami refers to flavor that makes you salivate, the extra savory quality found in soy, mushrooms, seafood, kimchi, and other foods, especially from Japan.
In this jerk sauce, the soy adds a mouthwatering finish and longevity to the flavor of the other ingredients.
Liquid Aminos can substitute for soy sauce in most recipes.
In every dish, I try to determine which ingredients will deepen and heighten the flavors. Ginger heightens the flavor. Its bright spice adds a floral tingle to your mouth and nose.
Ginger is generally thought of as a cold remedy because it opens your olfactory glands, making it easier to breathe.
Not all traditional jerk sauces call for ginger, but in this dish, ginger adds a freshness that rounds out the deep savory flavors with a ping of bright flavor.
A touch of acid awakens other flavors into brightness and perks up your taste buds with a fresh taste. The lime plays this role solely in our jerk sauce as no other acid is added. Its tangy taste is a favorite in island cooking making it the perfect match for jerk sauce.
Orange, lemon, or grapefruit can be used in place of lime juice.
While many folks think of Allspice as a baking spice, it finds a comfortable home in savory cooking as well. Similar to the flavor notes in cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, the allspice berry is occasionally referred to as “Jamaica pepper” for its common appearance in their cuisine.
This dried berry tastes very similar to cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Try using the Pioneer Woman’s guide for excellent substitutes for allspice.
Cinnamon and Nutmeg
Even though you might not think of cinnamon and nutmeg as savory ingredients, these warm spices add great flavor to fish and meat.
Thyme, White pepper, Tarragon, Black pepper, Cayenne, and Salt
This combination of spices brings earthiness, brightness, heat, and so much sensational flavor to your jerk sauce.
The Optional Side
Whenever I eat anything covered in jerk sauce, I pair it with rice and pigeon peas. For a healthier option, I tried riced cauliflower instead, and the results were so amazing I felt the need to share it as part of this recipe.
Start by using a cheese grater to rice your cauliflower. Use the largest notches to make the cauliflower a similar size to grains of rice.
Heat your olive oil to medium heat on the stovetop add purple onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add cauliflower, jalapeños, ginger, and nutmeg. Cook until the cauliflower softens and browns a bit. Add your canned pigeon peas and cook until warm.
The result will be a delicious and healthy dish similar to mixed rice.
Fried sweet plantains, Jamaican patties, a refreshing cocktail followed by a crisp, cool beer, and one of these delicious Jamaican desserts will complete this appetizing adventure in explosive flavor.
Quick, Easy, And Delicious
For most people, standing over a stove for hours to create the perfect dish is not an option. You can have it all with this recipe: great flavor in very little time.
You can even prepare the jerk sauce beforehand and store it for a whole week. I usually make a large batch and use the jerk sauce on other proteins or in rice. This makes my whole week easier and full of deliciousness.
- 1 -2 Jalapeños
- A Handful of Green onions
- 1/2 TBSP Minced Garlic
- 1/2 TBSP Honey
- 1/2 TBSP Soy
- 1 Nob of Fresh Ginger (Grated- about 1/4 TBSP)
- Juice of One Whole Lime
- 1/4 tsp Allspice
- A Dash of Cinnamon
- A Dash of Nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp Thyme
- A Dash of White Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Tarragon
- Black Pepper (to taste)
- Cayenne (to taste)
- Salt (to taste)
- 1 TBSP Butter or Oil
- 1 Large Salmon Filet (about 1 lb.)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 2 Whole Nectarines
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- While the oven is heating, prepare your jerk sauce by adding jalapeños, green onions, garlic, honey,
soy, grated fresh ginger, lime, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, white pepper, tarragon, black pepper, cayenne, and salt to a food processor. Blend ingredients until they reach a smooth consistency (thinner than salsa, but a little coarseness is fine.)
- Remove sauce to a saucepan and warm on low heat.
- In a separate grill/frying pan (oven-safe) warm butter or olive oil until melted or slightly sizzling. Cover salmon with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook for two minutes on each side.
- Add sliced nectarines to your salmon pan and place the pan in the oven. Cook for 5-10 more minutes or until salmon is flakey and cooked through.
- Remove salmon from the oven. Place the salmon and nectarines on a serving plate and add the desired amount of jerk sauce to the plate.