Test Kitchen: Easy salmon dish is great for a dinner party

When buying salmon, I always look for the thickest piece or pieces or ask for the center cut. And my local fishmonger happily tends to my request. The main reason for the center cut is it cooks evenly — especially if you are cooking one whole big piece.

Having all the same size and thicker pieces also means it’s better for serving guests because it looks nicer and is easier to tend to.

But recently I’ve been seeing the word “loin” under the salmon placard at the counter. My fishmonger tells me that means it’s center-cut and that’s the product she gets in. I’ve seen the same sign with cod, too.

The other thing I am noticing on the salmon placard is where the salmon is from. While I won’t take sides in the wild-vs.-farm-raised debate, I will point out that I am noticing more and more Norwegian salmon. The salmon costs about $13 per pound, much pricier than farm-raised Atlantic. But I am keeping an eye on the price of Atlantic salmon. According to www.undercurrentnews.com, an ongoing algal bloom is impacting the supply of Chilean salmon, which could ultimately increase prices.

What’s to like about today’s salmon recipe is that it’s made in a skillet and then finished under the broiler — in the same skillet. So this makes cleanup a breeze. You’ll need to make sure the skillet is broiler-safe. If you don’t have a skillet that is broiler-safe, once the salmon is cooked about halfway through, transfer the salmon to a sided baking sheet to finish cooking under the broiler. Be cautious and use oven mitts when you remove the skillet from the broiler because the handle may be hot.

What makes this dish so simple is all you need is a few ingredients: garlic, fresh lemon juice and lemon slices, honey, salt and pepper. The sweet and tangy ingredients make a nice glaze that’s poured over the salmon before placing under the broiler. And the charred lemon slices or wedges, add another level of sweetness. While there’s an optional step of brining the salmon, try not to skip it. Brining plumps up the salmon and helps keep it moist during cooking.

Serve this salmon over a bed of mache that has been lightly drizzled with an herb vinaigrette. Mache is a salad green that’s also called lamb’s lettuce. It has pretty dark green leaves with a mildly sweet flavor. Sold in plastic packages at most grocery stores, mache leaves are attached to their short stem. So the stems will have several leaves attached to them like a little bouquet. Mache is also nutrient-rich. It’s a good source of vitamins B and C and provides a good amount of iron, like spinach, according to www.healwithfood.org.



Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 25 minutes

If you like, brine the salmon first in a water, salt and sugar mix. Use about 1/4 cup each of sugar and salt to 6 cups of water — you can eyeball it. Soak the salmon in the solution for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator — any longer it you risk the salmon becoming mushy. Drain, the water and rinse and pat dry the salmon before cooking.

1 pound center-cut salmon, cut into 4 pieces

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons honey or agave

2 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 lemon, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices or wedges

Smoked paprika or regular paprika to taste, optional

Mache leaves or favorite salad greens

If you’ve brined the salmon, drain it from the brine and rinse it well. Season the salmon with kosher salt and black pepper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the honey, water, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and a few pinches of salt. Stir well to combine.

Preheat the broiler to high.

Heat the oil in a broiler-safe skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the salmon, skin-side-down and cook about 4 minutes or until about half done. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook about 30 seconds, just so it becomes aromatic; don’t let it brown or the dish will be bitter.

Pour the honey mixture over the salmon and add the lemon slices to the skillet. Cook about 2 minutes or until the liquid reduces some. Sprinkle the salmon with smoked paprika, if using. Transfer skillet to the broiler and finish cooking, allowing the top of the salmon to brown nicely. Carefully remove skillet from the broiler.

Brush any juices in the skillet on top of the salmon; let salmon rest 1 minute before removing it from the skillet. You can serve the salmon with or without the skin. To serve without the skin, slide a spatula between the skin and the flesh, removing the salmon from the skillet. Pour any remaining pan juices over the salmon and arrange charred lemon slices on top.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


Contact Susan Selasky: 313-222-6432 or sselasky@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks.