Man, I love salmon! Salmon is flavorful and rich and super-versatile. You really can cook it hundreds of different ways, and it has the added benefit of containing a wealth of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which, unless you’ve been hiding in a cave in Tora Bora, you know are extremely good for you. Whenever I cook fish, which is frequently, I have to make an assessment based on nutritional value, cost, environmental impact, and, of course, taste and quality. So it’s kind of a pain in the ass to balance all this information just to make something tasty and healthy for me and my family. But in this day and age of uncertain food sources and diminishing fish stocks we have to take all these facts into account and make our own educated decisions.
I am often at a loss when it comes to salmon. In theory I prefer wild-caught fish. I believe it’s almost always healthier to eat an animal that ate its own natural diet rather than one fed on a regulated diet created by man. That being said, I’m painfully aware that many natural wild stocks are being depleted at a frightening rate as our (by which I mean the human species) population increases and thusly our appetite for our scaly friends. Armed with this information I’ll frequently eat farmed salmon, although I’m always mindful that the fish might have added color and may not have been fed on the most natural of diets. I know some people refuse to eat farmed fish, as many frightening stories of genetically engineered “frankenfish” have been perpetuated in the past few years. Fish-farming in itself is not a bad thing; fish were farmed by the Ancient Romans and despite some problematic operations, most modern fish farms are fully reputable. And if you’re buying from a responsible fishmonger who can give you the provenance of his fare, you will hopefully not encounter any fish that has been fed antibiotics or anything else weird.
So I have this conversation in my head every time I buy a piece of fish. It’s a multi-faceted conversation fraught with problems on all sides. I urge you to do a little study, know what’s in season, what’s endangered, what the environmental impact might be, and what’s nutritionally valuable for you and yours. I also urge you to make friends with your fish guy, always buy the freshest fish, cook it simply, and eat well.
This has been a long lead-up for a simple post about a piece of fish that I bought and cooked and fed my family. It was a one-and-a-half pound slab of wild salmon, very fresh and very tasty. I paired it with some roasted veggies and some leftover rice, which I reconfigured into something even tastier than it started.
First I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F. Then I heated a non-stick, heavy-duty skillet over high heat. While I heated it up, I dried the fish very well with paper towels and slashed a rough cross-hatch into the skin. This helps to keep the skin from buckling and aids in speeding the cooking process. I then seasoned the filet on both sides with some fleur de sel (natural sea salt crystals), cracked black pepper, a little ground coriander, and a little lemon zest.
I swirled two tablespoons of olive oil into the hot pan and carefully laid the fish, skin-side down into the pan, gently pressing down with a spatula to make sure the center of the fish filet contacted the pan. I turned the heat down to medium-high and cooked the fish for about six minutes, until the skin was nicely, evenly browned. I then carefully flipped the fish (being careful not to splatter!) and then cooked it with the skin-side up for about two minutes. I then put the whole skillet in the hot oven and cooked it for another six minutes.
The fish was done, still about medium in the center. I left the fish in the hot pan on the stove for another five minutes, which allowed it to finish cooking a bit more but kept the interior nice and moist.
I served the fish with some broccoli and green beans which I sauteed over very high heat with some chopped garlic and capers. I finished that for another five minutes in the oven.
I also took some leftover Spanish rice which I fried (Chinese-style) with some scallions, cilantro, garlic, and one beaten egg.
As a sauce I mixed up some mayo with some lemon juice, some shallots, a bit of dill, and pinch of Old Bay Seasoning. It was nice, slightly tart accompaniment for the fish.
Dinner was superb! A hunk of fish, a little of this, a little leftover that, and dinner was cooked in 30 minutes. I drank a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to reward myself.