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The glaze is the star of this easy and elegant seared salmon dish. It’s tangy and sweet like any good Asian-style glaze, but the addition of whole grain mustard takes it over the top. The little mustard seeds glisten in the sauce and “pop” in your mouth, releasing bits of intense, sharp mustard flavor when you bite into them.
Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. First, most supermarkets now sell salmon pre-cut into individual portions, which makes it so easy to prepare. Try to find uniform pieces cut from the center that are narrow and tall rather than wide and flat — they’ll fit better in the pan and they make for a much prettier presentation. Also, be sure they are cut into small portions (6 ounces or less), otherwise they’ll be difficult to cook fully on the stovetop. (If you want to use larger portions, it’s best to sear them on one side on the stovetop, and then flip them and finish cooking in a 350 degree oven.) Second, if you’re unfamiliar with whole grain mustard, it’s mustard in which the mustard seeds are mixed in whole instead of ground to create a rustic, grainy texture. And, finally, mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine that can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Begin by making the glaze. Whisk together the brown sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sherry vinegar, whole grain mustard, water, corn starch and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Be sure to do this off the heat — the corn starch will not dissolve in hot liquid and you don’t want lumps.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until thickened, about a minute.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon fillets with kosher salt then place the salmon in the pan. Cook until golden brown on the first side, about 4 minutes.
Turn the fish over with a spatula, reduce the heat to medium and then cook until the fillets feel firm to the touch, 3-4 minutes more.
Transfer the fillets to plates and top them generously with the glaze. You’ll have plenty of extra glaze, as it makes a terrific sauce for whatever else you’re serving with the fish — in this case, simple roasted broccoli and jasmine rice.
Serve and enjoy!