Sesame Salmon Rolls- Just what the Doctor Ordered


If there is one thing that is universally true, it’s this: Sons are always trying to be half the man their old man was. Sometimes that formula gets tragically warped and a son spends his life trying to be twice the man his father was.

But this is really two sides of the same coin.

In my case I will have to settle for half the man.

Because my father is a doctor, and not just a doctor, but a children’s heart doctor. And as if that is not enough he also volunteers his time at his local Free Clinic caring for the many of us who have fallen between life’s ever widening cracks. He has even traveled to 3rd world countries where he meets and diagnoses kids with heart defects. Heart defects that would have otherwise gone on undetected and untreated.

People like my father with outsized talents (and undersized egos) are a rare breed. Sometimes being the son of a man like this is a little like climbing a ladder with uneven rungs. It’s hard to know how much progress you are making, and if it’s even worth the effort. But I guess that is part of being a son; to always wonder.

salmon rolls with sesame seedsAs a boy I was not good at all the things fathers often want their son’s to be good at. That was apparent at a young age. Which felt like a tragedy to me, and defined a lot of my youth. Luckily for me my parents allowed me the space I needed to be good at the things I did enjoy. Which wasn’t always easy on them or me. But it was the right thing to do, because that space allowed me to grow into a man who is happy with his place in the world.

For that, of course, I am grateful. The kind of grateful you can never pay back. But there is always that little boy voice in the back of my head asking: “Am I the son my father always wanted?” I know he would answer, yes, and I know he would mean it. But that does not save me from the struggle all men have when they look into their fathers eyes.

I bring this blatant bit of sentimentality up because I saw a glimmer of something in my father’s eyes recently. It was really more of a slip of the tongue. But it showed me that maybe, yes, perhaps my father did understand me. It was a powerful moment for me. But like too many sons and their fathers we let the moment pass with out mentioning it.

Because what was to mention anyway? It was such a silly thing. In fact it was a recipe.

I was visiting my dad recently, which I don’t do enough because an entire continent separates us. But on this visit my dad mentioned a meal I had cooked almost a decade earlier. I never thought my father noticed my interest in food. I mean why should he? We rarely discuss it. Besides, my mother was a far better cook than I, ditto for my brother.

The funny thing is, 10 years ago I was just beginning to see how happy cooking made me. Any cooking I did at that time had to have been baby steps.  Because the recipe my father remembered was a very simple salmon recipe. I think I got the idea of it from Martha Stewart Living magazine. I gave it an Asian vibe and added sesame seeds, shichimi-togarashi and a wasabi mayonnaise. But the technique for rolling this salmon was all Martha’s.

I haven’t made this recipe in years. I can’t tell you happy it made me to cook it again.

sesame salmon rollsSesame Salmon Rolls with Wasabi Mayo

serves 4

1 T dried wasabi powder
1/4 c mayonnaise
4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets about 2 inches by 4.5 inches
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c sesame seeds
shichimi-togarashi (Japanese 7 spice blend- optional)
A very small amount of vegetable oil for pan (optional)
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar

Prepare the wasabi mayo. Mix the wasabi and mayonnaise together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prep the salmon rolls. Using a very sharp knife, slice each fillet open to create one piece approximately 2-inches by 8-inches, and about 1/2-inch thick. To accomplish this start at the thinnest side of the fillet and slice horizontally through the flesh taking care to leave one end intact, this is butter flying. Spread fillet open, and turn it over. Season it with salt and pepper. Then spread about 1/2 teaspoon wasabi mayo all along its length. Tightly roll the fillet starting at thinnest end. Secure the roll closed with 1 or 2 wooden toothpicks. Repeat with remaining fillets.

Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium heat until hot, if you are worried about sticking add the tiniest amount of oil to the pan. Pour sesame seeds onto a small plate, add a few shakes of shichimi-togarashi, if using. Place a salmon roll in the pile of seeds thoroughly coat bottom. Repeat on other side. Moving each roll to the hot pan as it gets coated.

Cook the salmon rolls until opaque almost halfway through, 4 or 5 minutes. Turn them over and cook until another 4 or 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan and let them rest a few moments while you prepare the sauce.

In a small bowl mix the soy sauce and rice vinegar together. Divide this mixture evenly on the bottom of 4 shallow bowls or rimmed plate. Place one salmon roll in the center and put a dollop of the remaining wasabi mayo next to each salmon roll.

Serve warm.


Greg Henry