Category Archives: Seafood

Grilled Fish 101: Two Recipes For The Price Of One!

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Last weekend I had friends coming over for dinner and I wanted fresh fish. Having not had the opportunity to catch my own recently I did the next best thing and headed for the fish market. Pickings were a little slim at Restaurant Depot but I noticed some large Wahoo fillets. I asked the gentleman behind the counter if I could examine one and he gladly handed me a latex glove.

I laughed and told him that I am bit of a stickler about fish being fresh, then I poked the fillet, squeezed it little to make sure it sprung right back, I even gave it a little sniff. I told him that Wahoo was one of the best fish in the ocean but it absolutely must be fresh! Then I asked him to cut a 4 pound chunk of this perfect fish for me to take home. I smiled a little when as I walked away the guy behind me said “Yeah, I think I would like some of that Wahoo too!”

Freshness truly is half the battle when it comes to fish. The other half is cooking it right! The key with firm and lean fish is to never, ever overcook it. I always say to take the fish off the grill just before it’s cooked through and let it finish on the plate. Believe it or not, fish is so delicate that the heat from cooking will carry over and finish the fish on the plate while still leaving the flesh moist and tender.

To be sure about the doneness I don’t mind using a fork or a knife to check the progress but it’s not always necessary. With fish, especially fish steaks, you can watch the edges turn from translucent to opaque as the fish cooks. When grilling simply keep an eye on the side of the fish and turn it just as the doneness reaches the halfway point. Cook the other side for the same amount of time and viola, you are ready for the plate!

My friend Cyndi asked me for a recipe for this delicious fish and I am going to post not one but two because I couldn’t pick a favorite! Both recipes are exceedingly simple, grilled, and both are perfect for firm lean fish such as Wahoo, Swordfish, Mahi Mahi, or Halibut. The first recipe calls for Za’atar seasoning. This savory spice mix is available at most Middle Eastern, kosher, and halal markets as well as some finer grocery stores. It is one of my favorite spice blends!

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Grilled Fish with Za’atar and Lemon

Fish steaks or fillets cut into serving portions
Za’atar Seasonings
Fresh lemon juice
Good Olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Sprinkle fish generously on both sides with Za’atar seasonings, drizzle with lemon juice, and olive oil. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through.

 

Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook). Drizzle each serving with a little more olive oil and serve.

Grilled Fish with Compound Butter

Fish Steaks or Fillets, cut into serving portions
1 Stick (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, softened
Zest of ½ a Fresh Lemon
1 Large Clove of Garlic, finely minced
1 Tsp – Fresh Parsley, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Rosemary, minced
½ tsp – Fresh Oregano, minced
½ tsp – Dried Red Pepper, minced
¼ tsp – Fresh Black pepper, ground
¼ tsp – Kosher Salt
Good Olive Oil

 

Blend butter well with the herbs and spices and wrap it in plastic wrap forming the butter roughly back into a stick. Place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.

 

Preheat a charcoal, gas grill, or grill pan. Drizzle both sides of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. When the grill is hot soak a paper towel with oil and using tongs, carefully rub to coat the grill with oil. Place the fish on the grill and cook two minutes, turn the fish clockwise 90 degrees and cook two more minutes or until the fish turns white “almost” half way through. Turn the fish over and repeat removing the fish to a plate just before the fish cooks through to the center. (Use a fork to test if necessary and remove the fish from the grill just as the center turns opaque being careful not to overcook).

 

Immediately top each fish portion with a pat (about a tablespoon) of the compound butter so that the heat of the fish melts the butter creating a sauce.

Enjoy!

Sunday Brunch: Chinese Style Shrimp and Eggs

Brunch

Sunday brunch is one of my favorite meals! I have such fond memories of preparing late morning (or early afternoon) omelets, French toast or pancakes for my daughters as they were growing up. Nowadays it just Kat and I most weekends but that hasn’t diminished the joy of getting in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee and whipping up something tasty and interesting on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I had bought some amazing looking shrimp earlier this week so today I was looking for recipes with shrimp and eggs. I had thought of egg fu yung but that would mean a trip to the store. A frittata sounded interesting too but with ginger and garlic on my mind I found this recipe on one of my favorite web sites!

Using Shao’s recipe for inspiration I added potatoes for substance and a little Sriracha for warmth and came up with an interesting dish that would even make for a light and easy weeknight dinner. Served with a simple slaw of mixed cabbage tossed with a little rice wine, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil this was a satisfying and delicious Sunday Brunch.

Notes: This recipe serves two. A wok would be a perfect cooking vessel for this, especially if you were going to double the recipe. Be careful not to over beat the eggs, there should still be some separation between the whites and the yolks. And, do add a little more Sriracha at the table for a great boost of flavor to wake up your taste buds!

Chinese Style Shrimp and Eggs

4 – Large Eggs
8 – Fresh Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Cup – Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in ½ to ¾ inch cubes
1 Tbsp – Baking Soda
2 Tbsp = Kosher Salt, divided
Fresh black pepper
Cold Water
1 ½ Tbsp – Low Sodium Soy Sauce, divided
½ Tsp – Chili Sauce
1 Tbsp – Unsalted Butter, divided
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil, divided
1 Tsp – Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Tsp – Fresh Ginger, minced
½ Cup – Fresh Scallions, green parts only, cut in approx. 1 inch pieces

In a bowl (or a zip lock bag) add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the baking soda to 2 cups of water and stir (or shake) to dissolve. Add the shrimp and chill in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan over high heat bring 3 cups of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and the potatoes. When the water reaches a boil reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes test “almost” tender. About 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes into a strainer and shake to remove excess liquid. Set the strainer, with the potatoes, back over the saucepan to allow the potatoes to steam dry.

When you are ready to cook the eggs, remove the shrimp from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry.

Place a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat and melt ½ of the butter with ½ tablespoon of sesame oil. Add the potatoes and cook, shaking the pan and stirring to turn only every couple of minutes. Cook until the cubes are nicely browned on all sides.

Add the shrimp, shaking the pan to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute on each side before adding the garlic, ginger, and a splash of the soy sauce (about ½ Tbsp.). Shake the pan and gently stir to distribute the ingredients and cook 2 minutes more, stirring gently only 2 to 3 times. Toss with the scallions, remove from the heat, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. (There is no need to wipe the pan.)

Gently beat the eggs together with the remaining soy sauce, the chili sauce, and about 1/8 teaspoon each of kosher salt & fresh ground pepper. Add the pan back to medium heat and melt the remaining butter with ½ tablespoon of sesame oil.

Swirl the pan to distribute the oil then add the eggs. Cook 30 seconds then shake the pan a little to loosen the eggs. Continue giving the pan and occasional shake while using a rubber spatula to break up the curds moving them towards the center of the pan.

When the eggs are mostly cooked with some still a little loose, gently stir the shrimp mixture into the pan. Cook no more than one more minute as you gently stir to combine.

Serve immediately garnished with a few sprigs of scallion and a little hot chili sauce on the side.

Enjoy!

By Request: Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

Shrimp (Edit 2)

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto with Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

What? Shrimp again? Well, football season is now in full swing and I prepared these shrimp at our first Miami Dolphins tailgate party. They were such a hit that I had several requests for the recipe the very next day.

This recipe presents a perfect opportunity to mention “levels of flavor” once again as these shrimp benefit from the flavor boosts of the prosciutto and the rosemary. While they are very good without the prosciutto (and I have made them that way for friends that do not eat pork), the addition of the prosciutto, in all its salty, crispy, goodness, really does add another level of flavor that makes these shrimp a very special treat!

Add to that the fresh rosemary branches used as skewers and while you can certainly use bamboo or metal skewers, taking the extra step and using the rosemary adds a smoky, piney bite as the branches smolder on the grill and again another level of flavor that I think knocks these shrimp right over the top of the flavor scale.

As if those 2 levels of flavor were not enough, along comes the citric acidity of the lime juice and the kick of the horseradish in the Key Lime Cocktail Sauce to again take it to another level and a good dish suddenly becomes the hit of the party. Touchdown!

Key Lime Cocktail Sauce

1 – 12 Oz bottle Prepared Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp – Fresh or bottled Key Lime Juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s from Publix)
1 heaping tablespoon – Prepared horseradish
½ Tbsp – Fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch – Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well, chill thoroughly before serving.

Rosemary Grilled Shrimp with Prosciutto

2 Lbs Fresh Shrimp – Peeled and deveined
½ Lb – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into ½ inch wide strips
Zest of 1 large (or 2 medium) fresh lemon, divided in half
2 cloves – Garlic, grated or minced very fine
2 Tbsp – Dry Sherry
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pinch – Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

4 to 8 – Fresh Rosemary branches, leaves removed (with 2-3 inches of leaves remaining at the tip).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine half of the lemon zest with the next 2 ingredients, add a pinch of kosher salt and several good grinds of black pepper (about ½ tsp) then roughly ¼ cup of olive oil. Whisk until the olive oil begins to emulsify (or thicken). Gently toss the shrimp in this mixture until well coated, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

While the grill is heating up, wrap each shrimp individually with a strip of the prosciutto. Using the rosemary branches as skewers, thread the shrimp evenly on 4 to 8 of the skewers (depending on the length of the branches). Drizzle the skewered shrimp with a little more olive oil, sprinkle them evenly with the remaining lemon zest and a few more grinds of black pepper.

Grilled directly over the flames, turning only once, until the prosciutto is crispy and the shrimp are browned and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on how hot the grill is. Serve with Key Lime Cocktail sauce and…

Enjoy!

Randy

Surf & Turf Salad: Thai Style Quinoa Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

Thai style surf & turf quinoa salad

Upon returning home after traveling and dining out for a few days I was looking very much forward to a home cooked meal last night! After rustling through the cupboards and the freezer I settled on surf and turf in the form of a grouper fillet from my last trip to the Florida Keys, complimented by a small skirt steak. Neither was quite enough for a meal by itself but together I thought I could come up with something special for the two of us.

While exploring the fridge I also stumbled upon a bottle of Thai style peanut dressing I had made just before leaving town and that got me thinking salad would be just the ticket! The first order of business was making a Thai style marinade for the steak and a batch of quinoa that would complement those flavors. For the dressing I had used This Recipe from a blog that I follow and added only a teaspoon of tamarind paste and a splash of fresh coconut milk for a flavor boost.

The salad itself was simply ingredients I had on hand; the base was a “Power Greens” salad mix with chopped red cabbage, grated carrots, and chopped celery. I tossed each portion gently with ½ cup each of the quinoa and garnished the salad with cucumber slices, fresh parsley, and some pickled baby beets that were also on hand. After dressing the salad I set the cooked fish and sliced steak on top and sprinkled everything with a few black and white sesame seeds. I also added a few raw cashews at the table as an afterthought (not in picture).

Thai Marinade for Steak or Fish

2 – Scallions, chopped
1 – 3 inch piece of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
¼ Cup Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Grape Seed Oil
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp – Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp – Fresh Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Ginger, Minced
1 Tbsp – Fresh Lime juice (about ½ of a lime)
1 Tbsp – Fresh lime zest (also about ½ of a lime)
½ Tsp – Sriracha or similar (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients and whisk to combine.  Soak steak until ready to grill (at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours). Soak fish for no more than 20 minutes for best grilling results.

To prepare the meats: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and the grill pan over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Brush the grill pan with a little grape seed oil and place the fish at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness), turn and cook 2 minutes more. Place the fish on an oven proof dish and finish in the oven just until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is in the oven wipe the grill pan, heat the pan over medium high heat until smoking hot, brush the surface with a little more oil. Make sure your steak is trimmed of any excess fat or silverskin and and place the steak at an angle to the ridges in the pan. Cook without moving for 2-3 minutes, turn and cook 2-3 minutes more (depending on thickness). Rest the steak on a plate for at least 5 minutes before slicing ACROSS the grain.

Thai Flavored Quinoa

1 Cup – Quinoa, rinsed (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tri Colored Quinoa)
2 Cups – Water
1 Tbsp – Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp – Sesame Oil
1 Clove – Garlic, whole
2 – 3 inch pieces of Lemon Grass stalk, pounded to release flavor
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Warm a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the sesame oil then stir in the quinoa, garlic, and lemon grass. Toast gently for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally or if you hear popping. Dissolve the dark soy sauce in the water then pour, while stirring, over the quinoa. Raise the heat to medium high and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 15 minutes more. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool before tossing into your salad, remove the lemon grass and garlic before serving.

To serve prepare your salad base of mixed greens (use your imagination!), grated carrots, cut celery, and red cabbage. Toss gently with ½ cup of quinoa per serving and garnish with sliced cucumbers, radishes, pickled beets or whatever else you like. Drizzle the salad with dressing, place your fish and sliced
steak on top and garnish with sesame seeds and a little sliced scallion.

Enjoy!

Yard Sale Brunch: Personal Frittatas with Shrimp, Bacon, and Smoked Gouda

Shrimp & Bacon Frittatas

My wife Kathy and some of our friends had another yard sale today. As usual, once the tents and tables were up, I wanted to make a brunch treat to go along with their requisite mimosas. I had a shrimp and bacon frittata in mind based loosely on a pizza we’ve had at one of our favorite haunts in the Florida Keys. Trouble is, after picking up all of my ingredients last night I realized this morning that our oven is broken!

I was contemplating how to do a frittata on the grill when Kathy suggested I use the toaster oven and a muffin tin to make mini (personal) frittatas. What a novel idea! You don’t have to make yours in a muffin tin but they really were great for an outdoor brunch. They went perfectly with chilled fresh cantaloupe and the banana muffins someone else made…not to mention those mimosas!

I make frittatas often, sometimes even for dinner, and I always use this web article as a  guide: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cyor/frittata.aspx. I know I’ve posted it before but really can’t recommend it enough…we have yet to be disappointed.

Shrimp and Bacon Frittatas with Smoked Gouda

24 – Medium Shrimp
8 – Large Eggs
6 slices – Thick Sliced Uncured Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked (2 Slices Reserved)
1/2 Cup – Smoked Gouda Cheese, Grated
1/2 Cup – Heavy Cream
3 – Green Onions (about ¼ cup sliced)
1 Tbsp. – Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. – Unsalted Butter, Melted
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground Pepper
Olive Oil Spray

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. To prep the shrimp, dissolve 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in 4 cups of water. Peel and devein the shrimp and soak them in the salty water for a few minutes while preparing the other ingredients. Place another pan of water on the stove and start bringing this to a boil.

Slice the green onions diagonally into roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices then cut 4 slices of bacon in half first lengthwise, then into ½ inch pieces. Grate the cheese and place together in a bowl with the onions and bacon.

When the pan of water has come to a boil strain the shrimp, blanch them in the boiling water for one minute, then strain them again. Toss these in a bowl with the melted butter then, when cool enough to touch, cut each shrimp crossway into 2 -3 bite sized pieces.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl with the cream and the flour, adding fresh ground pepper to taste. Then gently fold in the cheese, onion, and bacon mixture. Lastly, gently fold in the shrimp and you are now ready to make your frittata!

If you are going to use a muffin tin, line each cup with paper muffin cups. Give each cup a good spray of olive oil then using a very large spoon distribute the egg mixture as evenly as possible into twelve cups. Place the muffin tin carefully in the oven (or toaster oven) and bake 20 minutes, checking often after 15 minutes to make sure the tops don’t get too brown. Allow these to cool a few minutes before serving.

Before serving slice the remaining bacon pieces on an angle and garnish each personal frittata with a piece poked into the top.

Alternative cooking method: Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pour in the egg mixture evenly, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes until the eggs begin to set and finish in a 325 degree oven until set, 15 – 20 minutes.

Allow the pan to cool a little before carefully sliding the frittata onto a cutting board, cool a few more minutes, slice and…

Enjoy!

Menu: Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, Rosemary, & White Wine Reduction, Cauliflower Mash with Boursin, & Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

Photo by Kathyhuntphoto.com

The other night I set out looking for clams to make a fresh clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage dish I had in mind. Alas, I came home with scallops. As funny as that sounds I was a little disappointed that the clams at the two purveyors I visited appeared to have been languishing in their little net bags just a little too long. With all seafood and especially shellfish I am extremely picky about freshness…I had to take a pass on the clams. But being the Friday before Christmas I did want to make a special dinner so Costco and their frozen sea scallops saved the day again. As I’ve mentioned before, I really like these “dry-packed” flash frozen scallops and I still always verify “Ingredients: Sea Scallops”. No salt and definitely no sodium tripolyphosphate!

To prepare these scallops for cooking simply give them a quick rinse, carefully remove the little hard tab of adductor muscle off of the side of each scallop, then dab them with a paper towel to dry. I usually place them on another paper towel set on a plate and refrigerate the scallops while I’m getting everything else ready. Keeping the scallops dry helps to promote browning once the scallops to hit the pan.

In this recipe I use the rosemary and the prosciutto to infuse the olive oil with flavor before cooking the scallops. I found that blackening seasoning alone was a little too much for the delicate scallops but with the flour added the seasonings were perfect and the flour helped form a nice crust. To ensure that even caramelization on the crust try not to move the scallops too much once they are in the pan…set them in, swirling the pan a little to distribute the oil, then leave them alone until you turn them. Timing is important so I suggest preparing the cauliflower first, blanching the snow peas while the cauliflower is steaming. Then while the scallops are cooking it only takes a minute or two to finish the snow peas and process the cauliflower.

Keep your eye out for that clam, broccoli rabe, and sausage recipe…as soon as I can find some decent clams!

Lightly Blackened Scallops with Crispy Prosciutto and an Orange, White Wine, and Rosemary Reduction Sauce

3 – Large dry packed sea scallops per person (Adductor muscles removed)
Juice of 1 Orange, zest reserved
1/8 cup – Dry white wine
3 large or 4 medium sprigs fresh rosemary
1 – Level teaspoon blackening seasonings
1 – Heaping teaspoon whole wheat flour
½ Stick – cold unsalted butter, quartered and cut into 16 cubes
2 Tbsp – Prosciutto, sliced thin then sliced across into 1/8 to ¼ inch strips
Extra virgin olive oil

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add ¾ of the fresh rosemary and swirl the pan to cook, pressing the rosemary into the olive oil with a wooden fork from time to time. Cook until the smell of rosemary is permeating the kitchen. (Your family may come in to see what smells so doggone good!)  After 5 minutes or so the rosemary will begin to look brown and crisp. Use the fork to carefully remove the rosemary allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan. Set the rosemary aside.

Over the same medium heat, add the prosciutto to the pan and stir briskly while shaking the pan to separate the pieces. Cook stirring constantly until the prosciutto begins to brown. When the prosciutto has changed color and appears mostly browned, empty the pan into a strainer, reserving the oil. Once the oil has mostly drained, set the prosciutto on a paper towel to dry (much like bacon). Return the captured oil to the pan and set back on the heat.

Combine the blackening seasonings and the flour and stir to mix. Press both flat sides of each scallop into the flour mixture then place the scallops directly into the pan swirling occasionally to distribute the oil.  Cook the scallops about two minutes, turn and cook two minutes to two and a half minutes more to caramelize before removing to the serving plates. Note: Scallops should be cooked “almost” all the way through when you move them to the plates. The residual heat will finish cooking them while you make the sauce.

Return the pan to the heat and increase the heat to medium high adding the orange juice, the remaining rosemary, and the wine to the pan to deglaze. Allow the liquids to boil swirling the pan occasionally until the sauce comes to a syrupy consistency. When the liquids have mostly reduced and have become syrupy, remove the rosemary. Add the butter 4 cubes at a time swirling the pan (or gently whisking) off the heat to incorporate the melted butter. Return the pan to the heat occasionally to keep the butter melting and repeat until the sauce has thickened and the all of the butter is incorporated.

To serve, drizzle a small amount of the sauce over each scallop then top each with some of the crispy prosciutto and garnish with orange zest.

Cauliflower Mash with Boursin

1 – Small head of Cauliflower
¼ cup – Chicken broth
2 Tbsp – Garlic & herb Boursin cheese
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
1 dash – Fresh ground nutmeg
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add a steamer basket to a medium sized stew pot along with 1-1/2 cups of water. Place the cauliflower in the steamer basket and bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling place a lid on the pot and steam until the cauliflower is quite tender, about 10 minutes.

Move the pot from the heat and very carefully transfer the cauliflower to a food processor with a standard blade. Use a wooden spoon to break up the cauliflower then add the broth, boursin, butter, and nutmeg. Process until smooth, check for seasonings and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Julienned Snow Peas with Toasted Pine Nuts and Orange Supremes

½ Lb – Snow Peas, julienned (sliced lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces)
1 heaping Tbsp. – Pine nuts
1 – Small navel orange, cut into supremes ( How to   )
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups – Water

Add water, salt, and the snow peas to a sauce pan over medium high heat. When the water comes to a full boil remove the pan from the heat and strain.

While the peas are draining dry the pan then place it over medium heat for one minute. Add the pine nuts to the dry pan and cook stirring constantly until the nuts begin to brown in spots.

Over the same heat, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the pine nuts and stir in the oranges. As soon as the pan begins to simmer, stir in the snow peas and cook until heated through. Stir in kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Randy

Fish 101 – Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

Once upon a time I loved salmon; then 5 or 6 years ago my family passed around a particularly bad stomach virus. The night it nailed me, what do you think I had for dinner? Why salmon of course. After that night I swear I could hardly even look at cooked salmon without feeling a little lightheaded, let alone eat the stuff! As the years went by though I slowly regained my taste for cooked salmon; a little at first, sampling small bites here and there, then by preparing my childhood favorite, salmon cakes. Before long I was actually cooking and enjoying salmon again.

My wife came down with that nasty virus that same night and she too refused to touch cooked salmon for even longer than I did! In time, she came around and once again she too enjoys cooked salmon (especially that crispy skin). So what is the point of my story? Well I believe that salmon, more than any other fish, is an acquired taste. Like coffee, caviar, and even beer; salmon is one of those foods that, for many people, seems to be an acquired taste. My wife and I learning to love salmon all over again is a perfect example.

Think about how many people you know that love fish yet claim to hate salmon. Curiously, I also know those that would tell you that salmon is the only fish they will eat! Why? Because for whatever reason salmon is a fish they developed a taste for or for those that hate it; maybe they never ate enough salmon to learn to like it. Which brings me to my final point, that salmon is one of the healthiest and sustainable foods in the ocean…it is well worth giving it another chance!

If until now you’ve avoided salmon I encourage you to give it try. If you’re ready…here are a few ideas on how best to enjoy this wonderful fish.

What to choose…

When it comes to fish, I have been known to preach about freshness and with salmon, freshness is paramount! Why? Simply put, the fresher the salmon is, the sweeter and milder the flavor will be. If you’ve had unpleasant, strong tasting salmon it may be that it wasn’t the freshest. When buying fresh salmon look first for whole fish with bright (not cloudy) eyes, and skin that is so moist that it has a sparkle to it (never dry looking!).

The gills should be bright red or healthy pink (not dull or off-color) and if you poke the fish in the shoulder (I’m snickering at the mental image of poking a salmon in the shoulder but it works!) the flesh should spring back firmly rather than leaving a divot. Finally, there should be no “fishy” smell. A fresh fish should have little smell, perhaps only the pleasant scent of the mist from a breaking wave or an ocean breeze, if any smell at all.

Once you’ve found your perfectly bright, moist, firm, and nice smelling whole salmon, most fishmongers will be happy to fillet it for you. But, you’re not always going to be able to find whole salmon…the next best thing to whole salmon is fresh, skin-on, salmon fillets. Again, look for firm, moist (the skin helps retain some of that moisture) fillets with little or no smell at all. I often buy fresh salmon fillets at Costco and I have no qualms at all about opening one little corner of a sealed package to sniff the fish for freshness. If it smells fishy…don’t buy it!

What about frozen?

Salmon actually freezes quite well and I often buy frozen salmon when fresh fish is not available. Look for a package that states the salmon is ICQ or “Individually Quick Frozen”. (These fillets are usually flash frozen while still very fresh, sometimes even still on the boat.) It’s ok if the fish portions are individually wrapped…I actually prefer it since I’m usually cooking for only two.

Frozen salmon to avoid would be whole fillets that are packed loosely, fillet portions that are not individually wrapped and are all stuck together in one big frozen lump, or any fillets that have frost directly touching the flesh. If the only salmon fillets you can find fit any of the descriptions in this paragraph; now might be a good time to go with the canned salmon!

To thaw frozen fillets, move them from the freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to cook them. In a pinch, if you forget to thaw your fish ahead of time, you can also thaw them quickly by placing them in a cold heavy bottomed steel pan. Cast iron works very well for this but a good heavy stainless pan will work too. The metal of the pan draws the cold out of the frozen fish and will thaw frozen salmon portions completely in about ½ hour or less. (This is also a good trick for quick thawing frozen boneless chicken breast.)

OK, I’ve got my fish…now what?

Now that you have found your salmon, treat it with respect and do not overcook it! For the best flavor, cooking the fish properly is nearly as important as freshness. When overcooked, salmon dries out very quickly which ruins both the texture and the taste. It’s actually amazing to me how often restaurants serve dried out, overcooked salmon. It’s so rampant in fact that I would bet many of the people that do not like salmon have simply never had a piece that was perfectly cooked.

Salmon should be cooked just through to the center leaving just a trace of pink in the very middle. There is really no trick to it, just keep a close eye on the fish while it’s cooking and when you think the fish is almost ready, use a fork to test for doneness. When the fish is done the flesh will flake easily but still hold together towards the center. It’s important to note: If you wait to remove it from the heat, until the fish flakes all the way to the center, then it will likely end up overcooked. This is because residual heat will continue to cook the fish for a little while, even after you take it off the heat.

Again, baked salmon, like most fish, is done perfectly when you can flake it easily with a fork, but the flesh still holds together towards the center. Below is a rough guideline for baking your salmon. Remember, this is strictly a guideline so start checking your fish early…if you let it go too long it will overcook.

If baking at 400 degrees salmon fillets 3/4” to 1” thick should be done in 8 to 10 minutes, 1” to 1-1/2” thick, 10 to 12 minutes, and 1-1/2 to 2” thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

What else?

Quite often salmon fillets will have small pin bones running along part of the center line. These should be removed prior to cooking. To easily remove pin bones, drape the fillet skin side down, over an inverted bowl. This will arch the fillet so that the pin bones stand out making them easy to find and remove using just your fingers or a pair of kitchen tweezers. Needle nose pliers will even work in a pinch.

Are you ready?

This is a super easy recipe, so easy actually, that for just the two of us, I baked it in our toaster oven!

I sprinkled my fish with a little dried dill but you can use any herb you like. Fresh rosemary or parsley would also be good with salmon and even a little lemon zest would be nice…don’t be afraid to use your imagination. On the plate pictured, I served the baked salmon over a bed of fresh spinach sautéed with just a little olive oil and lemon juice. Along side is a white bean puree topped with a few green onion curls, lemon wedges, and a little creamy dill sauce. Dinner was on the table in about ½ hour and was elegant enough to serve to company.

Salmon is a versatile, healthy, and delicious fish that can be very easy to prepare. If it’s been a while since you’ve tried it…I hope you will give it another try! 

Oven Baked Salmon with Lemon and White Wine

2 to 4 – Salmon fillets, 3/4″ to 1 inch thick, in 4 – 6 oz portions
Olive oil
Lemon juice
White wine
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
Dried dill (or your herb of choice)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and thoroughly dry your salmon portions by patting them with a paper towel. Cover a ½ or ¼ size baking sheet with aluminum foil and place your fish on the sheet with plenty of space in between. Drizzle the salmon evenly with roughly ½ tablespoon of the olive oil, turning it over a time or two just to coat. With the salmon skin side down, drizzle with roughly ½ tablespoon each of the lemon juice, then the wine.

Sprinkle the fish with a pinch of kosher salt and approx. ¼ tsp each of fresh ground black pepper, and dried dill. Place the fish in the pre-heated oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, checking for doneness after 8 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven when the flesh flakes easily with a fork but still holds together slightly towards the center.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Randy