I don't drink coffee. I know it sounds backwards, but it puts me to sleep. When Week 40's theme came up as coffee, I wasn't very excited but I knew immediately what I was going to do. Sometime last year, I bought a coffee and garlic BBQ rub from Trader Joe's. It had coffee in it so it would work for the challenge. I wasn't going to waste any of A's good Intelligentsia coffee that we drove home from Chicago to try to make my own rub if I had this in the spice cabinet already.
This wasn't the first time we used the rub. Way back in March, I took a couple of chicken breasts and seasoned them with the rub, and then cooked them on our grill pan. I was not a fan of the rub. I considered returning it to Trader Joe's, but it had been so long since I bought it that it had already disappeared from the shelves and returned in that time span. It's been a while, so I don't remember if I let the chicken sit in the rub to marinate or if I immediately grilled it, but either way, I didn't like it at all. The coffee flavor was really strong to me (A doesn't remember it being so strong, so maybe I was just more sensitive to the strength since I'm not a coffee drinker), and just overpowered anything else in the blend. I figured I would just suffer through using it on chicken every so often since we had already spent the money on it.
When the theme initially came up, I planned to just make the chicken with the rub again, and call it a day on the coffee challenge. As the week got closer in time, I changed my mind. I decided instead to try the rub on salmon. I wasn't sure how well coffee would go with fish, but after Googling coffee rubbed salmon recipes and finding a few grilled fish recipes with a similar rub, I decided to go for it. However, since I was already using the oven for the vegetables that night, I made a same day, last minute change and put the salmon on a baking sheet instead of using the grill pan. I was curious as to whether our coffee rubbed baked salmon would be any better than our coffee rubbed grilled chicken.
After rubbing the salmon with some olive oil, I shook a liberal amount of the coffee rub onto the salmon. The coffee aroma was really strong, and I groaned inside as the prospect of eating a heavily coffee flavored protein loomed in my mind. As for what's in the rub, the can lists the ingredients as: coffee, brown sugar, sea salt, sugar, roasted garlic and onion flakes, smoked paprika flakes, red bell pepper, Clemengold rind, and paprika oil for color. (I have no issue with listing out the ingredients here since TJ's lists them publicly on their own site. That's also where I learned that Clemengold rind is the skin of a Nadorcott mandarin orange. What kind of orange is that? I have no idea.)
I rubbed in the coffee seasoning on all sides of the fish, and then let it sit on the counter for about 20-25 minutes marinating while the vegetables roasted in the oven. After that, I baked it at 400 degrees for approximately 12 minutes, and then let it rest for another 5 minutes or so on top of the oven. Texturally, I thought the salmon came out fine at that temperature and length, but A would have cooked it a little less. Maybe next time (yes, I said next time), I'll do it for 10 minutes instead.
I was really pleasantly surprised by how the fish turned out. I took the first bite of the coffee rubbed salmon, still smelling a hint of coffee from it, and was really shocked that it didn't taste nearly as strong or bitter as I remembered from the chicken experiment. I could really taste the garlic notes in the rub, as well as the sweetness from the sugar. The coffee flavor wasn't actually that strong at all, but it just gave it a little bit of earthiness. I thought it tasted really good (and I don't think it was just my low expectations), and I found myself saying that I would definitely make this again. I was so happy to finally find a use for this rub!
Dinner was unintentionally a predominantly Trader Joe's meal. Salmon (from Costco) rubbed with TJ's Spanish olive oil and coffee rub, paired with TJ's Belgian brussels sprouts (I don't know if these were bigger but there definitely weren't as many sprouts as the time we posted about them before) roasted with red onion and garlic, and served with TJ's harvest grains blend. I guess you can tell where I do a lot of my food shopping.
Back to the coffee rub. I'm so pleased with how the salmon turned out in the rub, and when I make it again, I don't think I'll change anything about the process other than maybe how long the salmon bakes. As for the rub, buy again? Maybe. It was a definite no back in March, but after tonight, it's upgraded to maybe. I can't see buying another one any time soon as the tin is still pretty full, but I wouldn't be opposed to another one down the road if we need to stock up on a fish rub.