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Seared Steelhead and Fall Apples by Chef de Cuisine Stacy Johnston 

Featured Ingredient: Little Cedar Falls Steelhead, Orchard Apple butter

I have always been intimidated by cooking fish.  Granted, my exposure to fish growing up wasn’t great.  When I was a little girl, my Dad used to bring back Jack fish from the Churchill river on his annual Men’s fishing trip.  He’d toss them in egg, flour and fry them in LOTS of lard until they were ready to be doused in lemon juice and eaten…hopefully before they went soggy.  Now- he tried his best but they were always over cooked and ALWAYS very fishy.  

It wasn’t until I worked at Ocean Wise that I started to have more exposure to fish and learned the tips and tricks on how to cook it properly.  Now when I go back home, it’s my pleasure to cook fish for my Dad and share with him how to make his ‘signature dish’ even tastier!

This time of year always makes me think of apples!  Apples everywhere. When the weather turns cold and the wind gets that signature fall chill, all I want to do is cook with apples.  Apple crisp, apple muffins, apple sauce and calvados!  Often the last thing left on the fruit stands and often undervalued, Apples can add so much to a dish and making butter with them as well as pickling them, adds texture and much needed acidity to this fatty fish.

Here’s some handy tips from a professional to a home cook:

Ok – here’s the goods on cooking fish. 

  1. Make sure it’s a responsible choice.  We only support Ocean Wise recommended fisheries which makes sure the fish you are purchasing is good for you, the environment and other fish stocks along the way.  
  2. Look for fish that are bright, are smooth to the touch, smell fresh and when the flesh is pressed, it bounces back.  I love fish with skin — it’s a great show piece when you do it right.
  3. Always want to bring your fish out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before it hits the pan.  This will make sure the heat transfers evenly throughout the filet. 
  4. For fattier fish (steelhead, arctic char, etc), be sure to score the skin with a knife to allow the fat to release and coat your filet.  
  5. Season both sides of your fish generously with salt – no pepper though as it will mar your beautiful fish flesh.  

In a fry pan, heat your oil until nice and hot – I usually look for the oil to run like water and to start to smoke.  Take your fish and lay it down away from you, skin side first!  If you’re feeling extra brave, press down on the top of the filet to make sure you are getting an even sear on the skin.  Sear your fish 70% on the skin side and flip your fish in the pan to finish the last 30%!  If I’m really feeling uneasy I gently put pressure on the exterior of the flesh side.  If the flesh gives and separates slightly you are good!  Easy as that!  There’s nothing to be nervous about and it’s easy as that!

Serves up to 4 people:

Ingredients: 

  • 4 – 5 oz Steelhead salmon portions, skin on, scored
  • Oil of your choice
  • 2 lbs of your favorite apple (I recommend Golden delicious or Salish)
  • ½ cup good quality apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Spices of your choice (cinnamon, all spice, cloves, etc)
  • 3 perfect apples 
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1  cup canola oil
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey

Method:

  • Cut your 2 lbs of apples into quarters, leaving the peels and the cores on!  Apple peels and cores are a natural source of pectin and will help your apple butter get silky and delicious!
  • In a large pot with a lid, add your now quartered apples, water and apple cider vinegar.  Stir with a wooden spoon to make sure there is a barrier of liquid between your apples and the bottom of the pot – this will make sure it won’t burn.  Cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 20-25 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly
  • Pass apple mixture through a chinois (conical strainer) or a food mill.  This will catch all the cores and seeds so you should be left with a nice apple mash.
  • Add your sugar, bay leaves and spices.  Here is where you can decide to go savoury or sweet!  Looking for something to match your entree?  Add savoury spices ex. Cloves, chilies or pepper corns.  For a sweeter apple butter add about ½ cup more sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and nutmeg!
  • Put your apple mix back in the pot and cook low and slow.  Cooking on a low heat will allow the natural sugars in the apples to caramelize and should deepen the colour of your apple butter to a beautiful caramel.  This usually takes about 1-2 hours.  When you find your desired colour, remove from heat and cool!
  • Next start your fresh apples!  In a blender, combine apple cider vinegar, mustard and honey until smooth.  With the blender running on medium, slowly add the oil in an even stream until your dressing is thick.  Season to taste.
  • Cut your fresh apples into any desired shape!  I like matchsticks the best.  Toss in your vinaigrette, season and set aside.
  • Cook your fish as mentioned above
  • Assemble your plate, add a bitter green (arugula or what’s in season) and you’re done!  
  • Serving Suggestion(s):

Apple butter makes a great seasonal gift for friends and coworkers!  This recipe can be safely canned and given away to your loved ones!

This is a great recipe for meal prep! Put on top of your favorite greens, flake your fish and add some walnuts and you’ve got a great fall salad.

A basic vinaigrette recipe is a great way to save money.  Once you have your ratios correct, switch up the ingredients!. Maybe you want to use red wine vinegar or maple syrup instead of the honey. Food is meant to be fun, why not be brave and explore your taste buds?

About Stacy Johnston: 

Stacy Johnson is the Co-Chef de Cuisine at Naramata Inn, a talented and dedicated member of the kitchen team. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Stacy’s love for prairie flavours sprouted on her grandparent’s farm. After studying at SAIT Polytechnic she went on to receive her Red Seal and work at a few local favourite restaurants as chef and sous chef. Stacy was awarded “Best Dish at BC Chef meets Grape Vancouver 2019 and People’s Choice for Ocean Wise’s 2020 Chowder Chowdown.” 

Stacy is a protégé of Chef Ned Bell from their Ocean Wise days at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Stacy combines her Saskatchewan heritage with Pacific Northwest flavours to create dishes that comfort and intrigue. As a Naramata Inn Sous Chef, she enjoys connecting with the community, farmers, foragers and guests. 

Stacy lives by the motto of “Why not?  – Why not be my best, try something new, take a risk, make somebody’s day.” Why not indeed? Stacy’s passion, hard work and beautiful prairie charm make the Inn a kinder and more delicious place.