This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004.

Salmon and potatoes

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

12 to 16-ounce fresh salmon fillet
2 medium baking potatoes
1 small or 1/2 medium sweet white or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
Black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (30g) crème fraîche (preferred) or sour cream
2 tablespoons mild goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon Japanese wasabi powder


1. Carefully trim the skin from the salmon and discard it. Cut the salmon into two even pieces. Salt and pepper them to taste and set aside.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small (1/4-inch) dice. Put them in a bowl and cover with water so they won't discolor, if you're not using them immediately. Chop the onion into similar-size pieces, and mince the garlic fine.

3. Put the olive oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick or seasoned black-iron skillet large enough to hold all the potatoes in a single layer. When the oil is hot, put in the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until they're translucent and a fiew pieces are just starting to brown. Drain the potatoes, lightly pat them dry with paper towels, and add them to the skillet, stirring until the potatoes, onion and garlic are mixed. Let them fry for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally but then leaving them alone for a few moments so the edges will turn crusty and brown.

4. When you judge that the potatoes are about half done (browning and becoming tender but still crisp), push them to the sides of the skillet and put in the pieces of salmon. Let them sit in place without moving them for 2 minutes or so, then carefully flip them to sear on the other side. Continue to cook, moving the potatoes around occasionally, until the salmon is done, a total of 7 to 10 minutes depending on thickness and how well-done you like your fish. Try not to be squeamish about serving it rare in the center, though. Good salmon is really best when it's still a beautiful rosy vermilion in the middle. Think sushi.

If all went well, the potatoes should be just right when the salmon is done, but if you think they need a little more time, remove the salmon to a warm plate and finish the potatoes over high heat, stirring frequently. Taste for seasoning and serve the seared salmon surrounded by the potatoes and topped with a dab of this very quick but delicious goat-cheese-wasabi cream:

5. Mix the crème fraîche or sour cream and the goat cheese together in a small bowl and stir in wasabi to taste.

MATCHING WINE: Normally, my choice with excellent salmon is Pinot Noir, the classic exception to the "white wine with fish" rule. For this dish, though, an off-dry, aromatic white felt right, and the recently reported Pine Ridge 2003 Clarksburg Chenin Blanc-Viognier from California's Sacramento Delta did the job in fine style. Any richer white - a good Chardonnay, for instance - or Pinot Noir or other non-tannic red should also work well.