Monday, September 5, 2011

How to Cook Salmon if You're a Diet Vegetarian

Dear Tricia, How do I cook salmon? Love, your pescatarian friend who can't cook pescatarily.

Alrighty my non committal vegetarian friend (is it animals with legs you have a problem with?  Does that include shrimp?), you can do this.   Ready?  Set?  And here we go. 

My favorite easy recipe for salmon requires an oven and a stove.  You're going to start it off on the stove and finish it off in the oven, so go ahead and preheat that baby to 375 degrees while you get some honey, limes, and chili powder ready.

Let's pretend you're cooking 2 salmon fillets.  Are you pretending?  Ok, you'll need 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice (use the real stuff here- the fake lime juice out of a bottle is like designer impostor perfume, except with produce.  Besides, you can buy 8 limes for a dollar at Fiesta right now.  Go get on that bargain train.), and 2 teaspoons of chili powder. Mix it up with a fork or a whisk until it's you know... mixed.

Get your salmon ready.  That just means taking it out and blotting it off with a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture.   Then take your glaze and pour it over both salmon fillets.  There's no reason to try and be neat here- just pour it over the salmon and turn it over to get the glaze on both sides.  While you're doing this, get a saute pan hot.   If the knob on the stove goes from 1-10, put it at an 8.  Let the pan get hot for at least a minute, and then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Let that get hot for about 30 seconds.  Now take the salmon and put in your pan, skin side up.  If you bought the salmon without skin, then congratulations, you can skip that step of deciding which side to cook first.

You should be able to hear the salmon when it touches the pan.  If you can't, then you didn't get your pan hot enough.  (See my eggs and bacon video blog here for what that sounds like.   Plus, it'll probably make you giggle.)  All you're doing here is letting that glaze start to caramelize while the salmon cooks about halfway.  It's easy to tell when that happens because the color of salmon goes from red to light pink when it cooks.  You can see this happening just by looking at the side of the salmon.  In the meantime, DON'T MESS WITH THE SALMON.  Don't get nosy and start poking it to see what the other side of the filet looks like.  I'll spoil the surprise- it looks like a cooked piece of fish.  If you do this, you'll just break the salmon apart.

When half of it is pink, take a pair of tongs and grab on to both sides of the salmon.  When I say both sides, I mean the sides where you're watching it change from red to pink.  Don't try to slide the tongs up under the part that's cooking- that tear it up.  So, grab on to the sides and gently wiggle it loose from the pan.  If it's not coming up, you can take a spatula and try to loosen it.  Whatever you do, just flip the salmon over.  Then put the pan in the oven and finish it off in there.  (Very important- does your pan have a plastic handle?  Don't be stupid and try to put that in the oven.  Put the salmon onto a cookie sheet or baking dish instead.  Plastic and high heat don't go together very well.)

Let the salmon finish in the oven for another 7-8 minutes, or until there is a thin strip of red left in the middle of where you watched the magical color change that indicates done-ness.  Cooking it until its completely pink means you'll end up with dry salmon because even when you take the fish out of the oven, it will still keep cooking another 5 degrees or so.  So take it out when it looks just under done.
The reason why I say "OR until there is a thin strip of red left" is because it may very well take more or less time than 8 minutes, depending on how long you let your oven pre-heat.  I can't be responsible if you started preheating your oven last Tuesday and now your fish is over cooked.  And don't be afraid to let your own personal preference make the call.  I like my salmon pretty medium rare, and some people like it dry and hard as a rock.  Cook it how you want- you're the one responsible for that, now that you know how to cook salmon.

Go check out one of my other blogs on an easy fish recipe that you can easily substitute salmon for.  Let me know how it turns out!

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