skin-on salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
tablespoon olive oil
cups cooked white rice, preferably leftovers
teaspoons gochugaru (see Tip)
tablespoons maple syrup
tablespoons rice vinegar
tablespoons cold unsalted butter, kept whole
Sliced cucumbers or pickles, for serving (optional)
- Season the salmon on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sear the salmon fillets skin side down until the skin is browned and crispy, 2 to 5 minutes. The salmon’s orange flesh will begin to turn pale coral as the heat slowly creeps up the sides of the fish; you want that coral color to come up about two-thirds of the way at this point for a nice medium-rare. Carefully flip the salmon and cook the second side until the flesh feels firm, another 1 to 2 minutes. When you press it, it should not feel wobbly. Transfer the salmon to a plate skin side down and keep the pan with the rendered fat over the heat.
- Add the rice to the fat in the pan and spread in an even layer, packing it down as if making a rice pancake. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the bottom is lightly browned and toasted, about 5 minutes. You should hear it crackle. Flip the rice like a pancake, using a spatula if needed. You may not be able to flip it all in one piece, but that’s OK. Cook until lightly toasted on the second side, another 1 to 2 minutes. Go longer if you want crispier rice, but the trifecta of crispy-chewy-soft tastes wonderful.
- While the rice is cooking, stir together the gochugaru, maple syrup, rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. When the rice is done, divide it evenly among the plates. In the now empty pan, add the gochugaru mixture and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until it bubbles up and reduces significantly, 15 seconds to 1 minute. It should look pretty sticky. Turn off the heat and add the cold butter, stirring with a wooden spoon or tongs until fully melted and incorporated into the gochugaru mixture. Pour this glaze over the salmon and serve with cucumbers or pickles if you’d like.