My husband and I love salmon, and since we’ve been married, salmon has become a steady part of our diet. Funny, I never ate much salmon growing up. We lived near Lake Michigan and there are lake salmon, but our fish diet was most exclusively perch. But my dad and I loved smoked salmon. He and I used to wrangle over the small jars my aunt would bring us from her fishing excursions in northern California – Aunt Jane and Uncle Lou caught, prepped and smoked their own. When we had a supply and just before dinner, my dad would retrieve the coveted jar from the refrigerator, and he would break off a chunk for us to share – wow – it was awesome! And, if you’ve never tried it, smoked trout is out of this world, too, but I digress . . .
When my children visit, we usually get a whole salmon filet, and either bake it or wrap it in foil to cook on the grill. But when they’re not with us, Richard and I buy frozen salmon filets from Costco. They’re good sized – about six ounces or so, individually wrapped, thaw quickly, and one bag is enough for several meals.
To start dinner, I decided to boil the baby potatoes first until just tender, about 20 minutes or so. They’re so cute and delicious, you might be tempted to cook up the entire bag. If you do and have leftovers, the browned little darlings are great the next morning with fried eggs. I had about nine baby potatoes – you can use yukons or redskins – whatever you like or have on hand, and leave them whole with the skins on. Put them in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, add a teaspoonful or so of salt. You’ll know they’re done when you poke them with a toothpick or small paring knife, and get a little resistance. You don’t want them to be mushy, but to hold their shape, because you’re going to cook them again in just a minute or so.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, and run cold water over them to stop the cooking and to make the little yellow beauties cool enough to handle. Cut the potatoes into quarters, set aside. Heat an iron skillet to medium hot, and put in as much butter as the potatoes can handle. I had nine boiled potatoes, cut into quarters, and heated about 1/4 stick of butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper, and shake around a bit to evenly distribute the butter and seasonings. Then, let them cook and get browned. Be sure to move them around, so that the potatoes get browned all over. I’ll shake and flip them in the skillet, or use a spoon or pancake turner.
As soon as they’re evenly browned, pour them into a heatproof serving bowl and pop them into a warmed oven, 250° degrees should do nicely. The salmon won’t take long, so the potatoes should stay nice and crispy.
Once thawed, I like to put the salmon on paper towels to drain. You’ll find a lot of water in those pouches, and the dried filets just brown much better. When they’re drained, I spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Sometimes I’ll add some dried dill.
Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the filets. I don’t add more fat to the skillet, but you’re welcome, if that’s what you like. I find the combination of cooking spray and a hot skillet keep the fish from sticking.
You know, lots of cooking directions say “medium-high” heat. I’ve never known stoves – electric or gas, or cooktops to heat at the same temperature no matter what “medium-high” looks like on your dial. So you have to know your equipment and adjust accordingly. The skillet should be hot enough that you hear a sizzle when the fish hits the pan, but not hot enough to burn it in 30 seconds.
Then I don’t touch or move the salmon for 3-4 minutes or so. The time it takes to cook depends on how thick the filets are, so you need to watch that the fish doesn’t overcook or burn. Then I’ll flip then over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, check for doneness, drizzle with fresh lemon juice and serve.
And if you want to get carried away, move the fish to a plate, deglaze the skillet with a little white wine, add fresh lemon juice, reduce, add a bit of butter to make the sauce, and drizzle over the cooked salmon.
While all this fun is going on, you can cook vegetables or make a salad. I steamed fresh broccoli, but this would be good with brussel sprouts, or a nice cool salad.