There was a time when I would stoop as low as to buy microwaveable fish. A frozen puck, probably once resembling a fillet, stuffed in a cardboard box and set in stasis over the ages. Cooking directions? Just unwrap and cook in microwave for 8-10 minutes. Does not even require thawing! The result? An off-white piece of shriveled sponge-like object swimming in melted ice water with bits of floating white debris. Bon appetite. This I had been willing to put up with. The reason being that I’d always thought fish was just a generally mediocre tasting protein- a food we only resort to when we’re sick of eating chicken or beef. A food reserved to be cooked(successfully) by culinary wizards. We all know someone in our lives who don’t like fish. When ill prepared, fish can scar a man for life.
Well, advice #1: NEVER BUY FROZEN FISH! Yes, they may keep well and they may be cheaper but they will always end up tasting like soggy sponge no matter how much lemon juice and whatever spice you smother them with. It’s also very difficult to dry frozen fish, and this can be a real problem when trying to achieve a crispy shell.
Advice #2: Stay calm and don’t panic.
Browsing through the weekly flyers, I came across a 50% off sale on fresh Atlantic Salmon fillets. I can spot a good deal when I see one, and a good deal I cannot resist. It was the first time I’d bought fish over the counter, instead of picking frozen vacuum packs off the cooling shelf. But what beautiful cuts of fillet – glistening and rosy red with freshness!
So, my first salmon dish- Crispy Skin Salmon Fillet (thanks to Chef Ramsay). My side dishes are an apple and leek slaw salad paired with creamy dill potatoes.
- salmon fillet with skin on
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
1. Cut incisions into salmon skin
Use a sharp knife. The skin can be tough but the flesh is soft like butter so be really careful not to butcher the salmon. The thinner the strips, the crispier the skin will be.
Also, it prevents the skin from curling and deforming the fillet during cooking.
2. Sprinkle salt into each incision
You may want to use your fingers and gently pry open each incision to insert the salt. Feel free to add on any spices you think will go well with the salmon.
3. Cook it skin side down first
Heat olive oil in a pan. When the oil is just starting to smoke, lay the salmon fillet skin side down.
This is when you want to leave the fillet alone. Before, I’ve always had the urge to nudge the protein around as it sizzles, but please don’t. FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD, LEAVE THE FILLET ALONE! Just keep an eye on it, and enjoy the irresistibly mouth watering sound of the salmon sizzling away.
You can see the translucent colour of the flesh gradually turn a solid pink, travelling upwards.
Keep at medium heat, the salmon skin should be gently sizzling, not spewing greasy projectiles at you.
When the color has traveled 2/3 of the way up, flip the salmon. Be careful not to break the fillet apart. Use a thin spatula. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
Then flip the salmon over one last time (just for a minute), to reheat the skin and get it nice and crispy again. Plate it and voila! Does the skin give off a crisp thud when knocked with a spoon? YES? Then mission accomplished! If not, well there’s always next time but be consoled that the fish will still be delicious.
Apple and Leek Slaw:
- green apple
- sour cream
- maple syrup (or sugar)
- salt & pepper
- fresh parsley
1. Julienne the apple and chop the leek
2. Toss apple and leek with lemon juice
The lemon juice will prevent the apple from browning, so should probably put that in early on. I find it reduces the sharpness of the leek as well.
3. Add sour cream, a dash of maple syrup and salt/pepper
I use maple syrup to give it a Canadian flare. Nah, it’s really because I don’t want to have to dissolve sugar. Mayonnaise is good too if you don’t have sour cream. Toss them all together and you’re done. I serve the slaw on a bed of mixed leafy greens and top it with some fresh parsley from me garden. 🙂
Creamy Dill Potatoes:
- sour cream
- lemon vinaigrette
1. Boil potatoes, cut into cubes
Until they are practically falling apart. Cut into inch long cubes.
2. Dress potatoes
Coat with sour cream, dill and lemon vinaigrette(lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt&pepper)
I find most restaurants tend to over cook their salmon fillets, and that’s why I’ve never really been a fan of salmon until now. When done right, it’s moist and rich and melts in your mouth and just absolutely glorious!
Beautiful. Still pink in the middle. Every bite offers a rich crunch followed by velvety moist salmon that just melts in your mouth.
I may have been wandering soullessly in a fishy dark age, but I have reached a Fish Renaissance and am basking in its aromatic glory.