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This Crispy Seared Salmon with Aji Amarillo Aioli is super easy, healthy, and cooks in less than 20 minutes. Served with a super simple and delicious sautéed mixed vegetable and topped with a spicy, tangy and addictive sauce, it will be an easy weeknight family dinner go-to for years to come. The salmon and aioli also happen to be Paleo and Whole30.
Ingredients You Need for The Crispy Seared Salmon
- Salmon: Try to source the freshest and best quality salmon you can find. Whenever possible, I like to purchase salmon filets with the skin on because that’s the part that gets super crispy. Even if you don’t like the skin, I still recommend buying filets with it on because the skin acts as a safeguard against the fish sticking to the pan. Once cooked, you can always just peel off the skin.
- Good Quality Paprika: There are many types and qualities of paprika and not all are created equally. Some are sweet, bittersweet, spicy or smoked. Others have absolutely no flavour at all. Look for ones from Spain, particularly anything that says pimentón de la vera, or Hungary. Some brands I love are La Chinata, La Dalia, Szeged, and Chiquilín.
- Salt and Pepper: Because I served the crispy seared salmon with a very flavourful aioli, I decided to keep the seasonings very simple so as not to overpower the flavour of the fish. Feel free to substitute your favourite seafood seasoning or experiment with other combinations.
Ingredients You Need for the Aji Amarillo Aioli
- Aji Amarillo: You can find this spicy Peruvian yellow chile pepper paste in the international aisle of many major grocery stores or purchase it online. Much like sriracha, I find that aji amarillo has a bit of a fermented, sour flavour but without the funkiness.
- Mayonnaise: Use an avocado oil mayonnaise to keep this recipe Paleo and Whole30 compliant.
- Lemon Juice: Use freshly-squeezed lemon juice for the best flavour.
- Garlic: As always, measure this ingredient with your heart and don’t let anyone tell you there’s such a thing as too much. However, keep in mind that this recipe makes one small batch of aioli that should be enough for two servings so I recommend using only one medium sized clove of garlic.
- Paprika: Adding a small amount of paprika to the aioli will give it a beautiful speckled colour. I used a spicy paprika because that’s what I had, but you can substitute sweet or bittersweet.
This crispy seared salmon is versatile and pairs well with a variety of side dishes. We enjoyed it with some sautéed mixed vegetables and a side of steamed rice, but the options are endless.
For the vegetables, I used a variety of zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper and onion, but you can substitute different vegetables depending on the season or what you have on hand.
Note: The salmon, vegetables and aioli are all Whole30 and Paleo, but the rice pictured is not.
Other Uses for Aji Amarillo
If you’ve purchased a jar of aji amarillo paste, here are some other ideas for ways to incorporate it into your favourite recipes.
- Sauces and Condiments:
- Just like this in this aioli, aji amarillo paste can be mixed with mayonnaise or yogurt based sauces, dips and spreads for a spicy and colourful kick
- It can also be combined it with olive oil, garlic, and lime juice for a zesty salad dressing or marinade.
- Use aji amarillo paste as a key ingredient for your Peruvian-style roasted chicken marinade. It’s also great for adding some heat and flavour to your favourite grilled or roasted pork and beef marinades.
- Stews and Soups:
- It can add depth and spice to dishes like chicken soup or seafood stew.
- Dips and Spreads:
- Create spicy dips by mixing aji amarillo paste with ingredients like cream cheese, sour cream, or Greek yogurt.
- Vegetable Sauté:
- Add a spoonful of aji amarillo paste to sautéed vegetables for a burst of flavour. It works well with bell peppers, onions, and zucchini.
- Include aji amarillo paste in your ceviche marinade for an extra kick of heat and spice. It adds a depth of flavour, tanginess, colour and complements the freshness of the seafood.
- Egg Dishes:
- Mix Aji Amarillo paste into scrambled eggs or omelettes to give your breakfast a spicy and flavourful boost.
- Sandwiches and Wraps:
- Spread Aji Amarillo paste on sandwiches or wraps for an extra kick. It pairs well with various deli meats and grilled vegetables.
Can You Cook Fish in a Steel Pan?
As long as you follow a few basic steps, you can perfectly cook fish in a steel pan without it sticking.
- Clean Pan: It seems obvious but make sure you start with a clean pan. Residual grease or stuck-on bits may interfere with the performance of your stainless-steel and cause things to stick.
- Dry Preheat: The MOST IMPORTANT step is to first preheat the steel pan while it’s dry over a medium heat. That means no oil, fat, cooking liquid or food inside the pan.
- Mercury Ball Test: You’ll know the pan is hot enough when you can add a small amount of water and it beads and glides across the surface with little to no evaporation or sizzling. If the water hits the pan, sizzles and evaporates, the pan is not hot enough. This is sometimes called the mercury ball test because the water will bead together and look like mercury.
- Add Oil: Only once the pan has preheated should you add the oil or cooking fat.
- Avoid Overcrowding: Try not to overcrowd the pan so that steam can escape and so that you can easily flip the fish.
- Leave It Alone: Try not to move the fish until it’s ready to flip. That means letting the pan do the work. Some things, such as vegetables, can be tossed or stirred with no sticking. Other things, like delicate fish or chicken, need to develop a crust before they naturally release from the pan. If you try to flip the fish and notice it’s still sticking, give it a bit more time or gently coax it up with a fish spatula.
- Control the Heat: Most fish benefits from a medium heat, which gives the centre enough time to cook through without burning the skin or outer flesh. If you notice the fish starting to burn, remove the pan from the heat or reduce it to a lower heat.
Crispy Seared Salmon with Aji Amarillo Aioli and Sautéed Vegetables – Whole30, Paleo
For the Aji Amarillo Aioli:
- 1/3 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon aji amarillo paste
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated
- ¼ teaspoon spicy paprika
For the Crispy Salmon and Sautéed Vegetables:
- 2 8- ounce skin-on salmon filets
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon spicy paprika, plus extra for garnish
- 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
- 1 medium yellow squash, roughly chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- ½ large red onion, roughly chopped
- Steamed rice, optional, for serving
For the Aji Amarillo Aioli:
- In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, aji Amarillo paste, lemon juice, garlic, and paprika. Whisk until smooth and combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust with lemon juice or aji Amarillo paste, as desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 5 days.
For the Crispy Salmon and Sautéed Vegetables:
- Drizzle the fish with 1 tablespoon olive oil and massage to coat. Lightly season the skin side with salt and pepper. Flip the fish over and lightly season the flesh side with salt, pepper and paprika. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.
- Preheat a frying pan over medium-heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini, squash, bell pepper and onion. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, around 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, as desired. Transfer the vegetables to a platter and cover with foil or a bowl to keep warm.
- Wipe the pan clean, return it to the stove and preheat over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully add the salmon to the pan, skin side-down, lightly press the skin into the pan to make even contact, and cook, undisturbed, until the skin is golden brown and crispy, around 3 minutes. Gently flip the salmon and cook the flesh side until golden brown and the thickest part of the flesh is flakey and opaque, around 3 more minutes for a medium centre. Transfer the fish to a platter and let it rest 3 minutes before serving – the residual heat will continue to lightly cook the fish.
- Serve the fish with the sautéed vegetables and steamed rice, if desired. Spoon a dollop of aji amarillo aioli overtop of the fish and garnish with a pinch of paprika.