Note: Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville is one of America’s greatest chefs in addition to being a Food section columnist. This recipe is an example of how sometimes it is the simplest things that elevate a dish from good to great. Its secret is not in the mix of ingredients or in any fancy creative strokes; it’s in the way Keller dries the skin of the fish so that it fries to a bacon-y crispness. It’s a little thing, but it means so much to the dish. To dry the skin of the salmon, drag a knife blade gently but firmly over the skin several times, almost as if you are sharpening a razor on a strop. Use enough pressure to bring any water to the surface of the skin, then reverse direction to squeegee the water off the skin. Dry your blade and repeat until no more water rises to the surface. Place the filets skin-side up in a covered container that allows space between the skin and the lid to facilitate more drying until it’s time to prepare them.
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes
1 cup fava beans, shelled, cooked until tender and shocked in ice water, skin removed
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears), cooked until tender and shocked in ice water, plus 6 cups fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons whipping cream
4 (4-ounce) salmon filets, skin dried by wiping with knife
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for sauteing
* Saute fava beans, cooked corn, bell pepper and parsley in olive oil over low heat 3 to 4 minutes, season with salt to taste and set aside at room temperature (this succotash can be prepared 2 hours before serving).
* Puree 4 cups fresh corn in blender or food processor (if using blender, you may need to add 1/4 cup water to facilitate blending). Remove to strainer and set over bowl or saucepan. Press solids to extract as much corn juice as possible, then discard solids. You should have 3/4 to 1 cup corn juice. (A vegetable juicer can be used instead.)
* Gently heat corn juice in saucepan until juice begins to thicken (don’t boil). Add remaining 2 cups corn and whipping cream and cook gently until corn is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
* Season both sides of filets with salt. Heat pan over high heat. Add enough vegetable oil to cover bottom to depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. When oil is hot but not smoking, lay filets skin-side down and reduce heat to medium (if using electric stove top, reduce heat before placing filets in pan). Press fish with spatula to flatten; if salmon curls, repeat. Cook until skin is crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn salmon and cook 10 seconds. Remove from pan and keep warm.
* Reheat succotash. Place spoonful of succotash in center of each plate. Spoon corn sauce around succotash. Place salmon filets skin side up on succotash. 4 servings. Each serving: 493 calories; 222 mg sodium; 65 mg cholesterol; 26 grams fat; 44 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 1.75 grams fiber.