I was putting an order in on Fresh Direct the other day for some large staples that I don't feel like lugging from the store, and I noticed that there was a sale on salmon fillets. (Verlasso farm-raised salmon 8 oz steaks, to be exact.) So I got a couple for me and Sean.
Problemo: I've never cooked salmon before.
So: how do I cook these things? I don't have a grill. I have a stove/oven, and a bottom broiler (that I'm not sure works - the last time I used it I got some steaks about 1/3 way cooked before the whole thing just shut off and I haven't tried it since.)
What's the best way to get some flavor out of these things with the tools I have at my disposal? And should I marinate them in something? (What?) How long do you cook 'em? Should I roast 'em? Bake? Poach? Pan-fry? Take them to Andrew's and make him grill them for me? (HAHA)
I could look up a recipe on the internet but I'm going to my personal experts first.
-- Tavie (rhymes with GRAVY)
Mom, Andrew and I replied the following:
Marinating fish is always a problematic issue because it's all too easy to overwhelm the fish flavor itself. But it's easy enough to do; just pop the fish into a zip-lock baggie and add a bit of sherry, rice wine vinegar, chopped herbs, lemon zest (your choice from the list) seal the bag and let it rest in the fridge for an hour or so. To cook - grill or pan fry.
Pan frying is dirt easy - a bit of butter and brown gently on both sides. Fish needs to be cooked through but not overcooked such that it separates into flakes by itself.
I tend to cook 3 min on a side for pan frying or 5 min if the piece is thick. In general, I cook salmon as plainly as possible - ie quickly pan fry in some butter. Then I top with unsalted butter and squeeze lemon juice on top. Or I ladle on some bernaise sauce which is sold fresh, ready to use in supermarkets here.
You can also easily make gravlax with salmon fillets in a glass dish (like a pyrex pie plate). Mix 2 parts sugar to 1 part salt (NON-iodised) ie 1/2 cup salt to 1 cup sugar (you don't want to end up with too salty fish). Sprinkle on bottom of glass dish, place 1 fillet in the dish skin side down (if skinless, formerly skin side down). Sprinkle a bit of ground pepper on the salmon and then a lot of the salt/sugar mix. Place a bunch of fresh dill on top (you can use dried dill but it's not as nice). Pat plenty of the salt/sugar mix on the 2nd fillet and pace that face down on the dill (ie skin side up). Sprinkle the remaining salt/sugar mix on that. Cover with saran wrap/cling film and place a flat plate on top of that. Add a heavy weight to press the whole thing down - a few large cans works well. Twice a day, remove the weights and saran wrap, flip the whole bundle of fish and dill over and put back the saran and weights. That helps it cure evenly. The gravlax is ready in 3 days depending on the thickness of the fillets. You'll see the texture of the fish change. So, when you are ready to serve, just scrape off the dill and other bits and wipe dry with paper towels. Place on a clean cutting board and using a very sharp knife held at an angle, slice very thin, flat slices - then eat!
This is a useful recipe site as they have photos and sensible instructions: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/recipe/132/Gravlax
Remember that recipes are just guides, not the law ;)
Further to my mother's recipe for pan-frying, if there is skin on your
salmon then fry the skin side first until it crisps a bit. I like to
do that and then use the fish in a salmon nicoise (lovely in the
summer). That would be salad leaves, green beans, hard boiled egg,
tomato, boiled new potatoes, black olives, some anchovies if you like
and serve with a nice vinaigrette.
To poach i put butter and white wine and some dill and juice of one
lemon in a pan. Maybe add a bay leaf. It should be enough to come to
about halfway up the fish but you want to bring the liquid to heat
before you add the fish. Liquid shold be almost ready to simmer when
you add the fish skin side down. Keep at this heat and let poach for
~15 minutes. You may want to add some baby asparagus when there is
5-10 minutes left. Note: no need to turn and it is quite normal for
the skin to pull away in the pan when you lift to serve.
I would serve with hollandaise sauce and boiled new potatoes.
And from Andrew:
Preheat the oven to 350. Slice a bunch of lemon rings and coat the area the salmon will sit on in the pan/cassarole dish/whatever. Place salmon atop lemon. Cover top of salmon with a few more lemon slices, but not completely covering it- just a few. Seal whole pan in aluminum foil. Place salmon into oven. Bake for about 10 minutes per inch thickness. Five minutes before finishing, take salmon out of oven. Remove foil. Remove lemon slices from top. Heap spinach on top of salmon. Put foil back on. Place salmon back into oven. Let salmon cook the remaining 5 minutes, potentially slightly longer since the salmon may have cooled while out of the oven. Do you have a meat thermometer? Worth buying. Anyway, the spinach will have wilted and stick to the top of the salmon, looking almost like a green glaze. Remove salmon from the oven and enjoy.
Variants can include putting a little bit of white wine in the bottom of the pan to help keep the salmon moist and flavor it.