Kasu Salmon

In the 1980’s when Japanese food suddenly became wildly popular in the US, Kasu Salmon appeared on the scene in a few restaurants (mostly on the West coast) and then, finally, in the pages of the New York Times. It seemed like the dish had It Girl potential…but somehow, it didn’t live up to it’s early signs of beloved-ness and faded out like a forgotten movie starlet.

One of the reasons for its short-lived popularity may be that in the 1980s it was still too difficult to get an ingredient that is essential to the dish: kasu, a.k.a sake lees. Now that Asian markets are commonplace in much of the country, the ingredient is more accessible and the dish is a mature and sophisticated star whose performance is heralded by all.

The recipe below serves 8 as a main dish; you can cut the pieces smaller to serve as an appetizer. Kasu Salmon is equally delicious served warm or at room temperature and can even be cooked up to a day ahead if necessary. (I prefer cooking it the same day; all the work is already done.)

1/3 cup sake

1/2 cup sake lees/kasu

1/3 cup white miso

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 3-pound side of salmon, skin and small bones removed

1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1/4 cup black sesame seeds

1. Heat the sake in a small skillet over medium high. Tilt the skillet slightly to one side and use a long-necked lighter (or long match) to ignite it. Gently swirl the skillet until the flames go out, about 30-45 seconds. Pour the sake in to the food processor; add the sake lees/kasu, miso, sugar and soy sauce and process until it forms a thick but spreadable paste.

2. Line a shallow baking sheet pan with plastic wrap; place the salmon on top and spread the mixture evenly over the entire (top and bottom) surface. Cover with more plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.

3. When you are ready to cook the salmon, preheat the oven to 425 and coat a clean baking sheet pan with cooking spray.

4. Unwrap the fish and use paper towels to wipe off the marinade. Cut the fish into individual portions and arrange on the baking sheet, taking care to leave room in between the pieces. Sprinkle half of each piece with white sesame seeds and the other half with black sesame seeds. Place in the center of the oven and roast 8 minutes, or until salmon is just cooked through.

Makes 8 servings (as a main course)

Nutritional analysis per serving: 370 calories, 41 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat,620 mg sodium Please note: The nutrition numbers are only an estimate. Most of the marinade is removed prior to cooking and serving, so the calories may actually be lower than these numbers.