The Secret To Pairing Cranberries And Salmon Is This One Ingredient

Sometimes it just takes one thing to bring two disparate ingredients together. Honey does this by transforming oil and vinegar into a silky dressing. Smoked paprika serves as a spicy unifier for heady chocolate and steak. But what about cranberries and salmon? Though one works best as a zesty winter delight and the other embodies a buttery summertime dinner, balsamic vinegar is a key ingredient that can make sense of the confusing yet delicious combination.

Salmon is no stranger to tart flavors. The fish shines with a squeeze of lemon while a dash of orange creates the perfect sweet glaze for citrus salmon. But cranberries are on a different level. The fruits are mouth-puckeringly sour, breaking into a mild sweetness that's better suited for autumnal tarts and pies. With balsamic vinegar, the red fruits find their way. In her glazed salmon with cranberry balsamic compote dish, recipe developer Kara Barrett relies on the combo to emphasize salmon's robustness.

"It's the mix of salty, savory, and sweet that really complement each other; the balsamic and cranberry bring tartness to this dish and act as a counterpoint to the fatty flavor of the salmon," she explains. Though not as piquant, the vinegar shares a fruity acidic tinge with cranberries. It's richer and more complex in a way that mirrors salmon's buttery layers while rounding out the acerbic edges of the cranberries. Barrett adds ½ cup of vinegar to 2 cups of cranberries, infusing them with a deep flavor while still maintaining the classic taste.

Try these other ways to enjoy cranberries and balsamic vinegar with salmon

Since we can't completely get the idea of cranberries being a cold weather fruit out of our heads, we're grateful that salmon makes an easy transition into the hearty dishes the season requires. A Tuscan kale and cranberry salad is one of our favorites, and bulking it up with some flaked salmon is the perfect way to elevate it. It's topped off with a balsamic vinaigrette and toasted pecans, and you could also add Brussels sprouts for extra veggies. Meanwhile, feta cheese serves as the mild apparatus to enjoy the tart, buttery trio of cranberries, salmon, and balsamic.

If you relish your cranberries to be chunky rather than whole, opt for a food processor to turn the fruits into ... a relish! Though the berries aren't what we always have in mind for the condiment, their sour tinge makes them perfect for the job. Recipes for cranberry relish typically don't call for balsamic vinegar, but the rich liquid is worth adding because it mellows out the tartness. This comes in handy since cranberry relish isn't cooked, drawing even more attention to its piquant flavor. The condiment makes a delicious dipping sauce for light and satisfying salmon bites. The fish pieces take on a crisp, caramelized surface in the air fryer, further matching the sweetness of the beloved berries and vinegar.