Blackened Cajun Sockeye Salmon with Smoky Cheddar Grits. Thank you to Prince William Sound Salmon for sending me this gorgeous wild Sockeye salmon.
I was supposed to be in Alaska for the first time in my life this month, visiting the gorgeous coastlines of Cordova, salmon fishing, photographing the scenery. Getting to meet the amazing small families that make up the fishing crew of Prince William Sound Salmon and seeing how the salmon fishing operations are run.
Unfortunately since 2020 hasn’t been the best year, travel is not happening. Alaska came to me in a shipment of the most gorgeous, fresh, wild Prince William Sound salmon.
Prince William Sound is home to some of the most pristine waters on our planet. Glacial and protected, a perfect environment for these gorgeous fish. Wild salmon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. High in Omega-3s and taste amazing no matter the preparation from baked, seared, grilled, smoked, raw or poached. Incredibly versatile as well as tasty.
Years ago I had a blackened cajun salmon and grits dish at a cajun restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA, and have wanted to recreate it at home since. I am a huge fan of shrimp and grits and I love the flavors of cajun seasonings. I think they work well with a variety of fish and seafood with grits.
People sometimes think fish doesn’t pair well with cheese but I am here to prove that wrong. It is amazing with the creamy, smoky, cheesy grits.
This blackened cajun salmon dish is super quick to make. I cook the fish in a hot cast iron pan at the same time as whisking up the grits. I use quick grits that cook up in about 5 minutes. The fish takes 3-4 minutes a side so they are cooked at the same time. Whisk with one hand, flip fish with the other
This dish is simple yet flavorful. The spices complement the salmon, they don’t overpower its mild taste at all. And it pairs so well with the cheesy grits. I like to make my grits a little smoky with a little bit of smoked gouda. You can use just cheddar cheese, the dish will be just as amazing.
A few notes about Blackened Cajun Sockeye Salmon with Smoky Cheddar Grits Recipe first:
- This dish cooks up quickly. Have everything prepared ahead of time as you will be watching the salmon cooking while you are whisking the grits
- I cheat a little with using a cajun seasoning blend, I like Spice Hunter, Tony Chachare’s. Slap Ya Mama. So many great ones to choose from.
- I add salt to my seasoning mix ONLY when the cajun blend I use doesn’t have any salt in it. Omit salt if it does.
- I like to up the smoky flavor with smoked paprika
- This dish is best eaten when cooked fresh. You can reheat it, I suggest adding the grits back to a pan and adding in more broth and stirring until creamy instead of microwaving.
- Lemons add a nice hit of acidity that works well with the fish, the seasonings and the grits
- Hot sauce is a must. Tabasco is king for this recipe, I add it into the sauce in the pan before drizzling over the fish and of course I add a few extra drops.
For the salmon:
- Four Wild Sockeye Salmon Fillets - 4-5 ounces each
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (only if cajun seasoning has no salt)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
For the grits:
- 1 cup quick cooking grits or polenta
- 4 cups broth ( chicken or vegetable)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded smoked gouda
- 1/2-1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Lemon slices
- 1/2 cup finely diced scallions
1. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat for the salmon. For the grits have a 4 qt sauce pan on medium heat and bring the broth to a simmer. This will bee made while the salmon is cooking.
2. Prep the salmon by removing any bones, rinse then pat dry. Cut into desired fillet sizes. Brush the fillets lightly with one tablespoon of the olive oil then a squeeze of lemon juice
3. Combine the seasonings in a shallow dish. Press the salmon fillets into the seasoning to cover them well, don’t season the skin side.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter in the cast iron pan. Place the fillets in the pan skin side up and cook for 3-4 minutes. Carefully flip over and cook for another 3-4 minutes to crisp up the skin. Remove the salmon from the pan and add in the remaining tablespoon of butter and a few drops of tabasco sauce. Stir to make a sauce.
5. While the salmon is cooking, make the grits. Add the grits to the simmering stock and quickly whisk. This should take about 5 minutes to thicken so you can do this while the salmon is cooking. If the grits are too thick for your liking add in a little more stock. Once the salmon is about done remove the grits from the heat. Add in the butter, half and half, cheeses, half a teaspoon of salt, black pepper. Stir until cheese is melted. Taste and add more salt if desired.
6. Divide grits amongst shallow bowls, top with a piece of the salmon. Spoon the sauce from the cast iron pan over the salmon, top with diced scallion, a few more drops of tabasco and garnish with a few lemon slices. Serve immediately.
You can use all cheddar cheese in the grits if you don't care to use smoked gouda.