On The Menu - Knowing Your Salmon

On The Menu - Knowing Your Salmon

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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If you want an easy, but fancy main dish, it doesn't get much better than roasted salmon fillets. Be it a midweek date night, an al fresco meal with friends, or dinner with the in-laws — salmon will rise to any occasion. Thursday Food, with the help of Master Meat Crafter Gregory Burrowes, shares some tips about salmon and an Oven Baked Salmon recipe.

Cuts of salmon

With salmon, one size does not fit all. There are a few basic categories of cuts, each with its own treatment and purpose. Small fillets and steaks are great for fast weeknight meals, while a whole side of salmon is an easy and elegant main course for a dinner party.

Fillets

Salmon fillets are the most commonly used cuts of the fish, and for good reason: Removing the pin bones is simple, and the cuts lend themselves to all methods of cooking. A fillet can be a small section of a boned side, intended to serve one or two people, or it can be an entire boned side to serve a crowd.

With or without skin? That depends on how you expect to cook the fish. Certain methods, like pan-frying fillets, are designed to give you crispy skin, and that skin is delicious. For poaching fish, however, the skin can be removed before cooking and discarded.

For filleted, skinless fish, about six ounces per person is an average portion. With skin, add another ounce.

Steaks

These crosscut sections are best for grilling, broiling or pan-searing, though they can also be baked in a sauce. When buying more than one steak, be sure they are of uniform thickness so they cook at the same rate.

Thicker steaks will be easier to cook so they acquire an attractive burnish and remain moist and succulent, roughly 10 to 12 ounces per steak. Consider serving half a large steak per person, divided in the kitchen after cooking and plated without the skin and bones.

Sides

A side of salmon is the piece from which smaller fillets are cut, and it's a great choice for when you want to serve a large group of people. A side can be grilled, roasted or broiled, or even poached if you own the right equipment. If you're looking to cook a whole salmon, try two sides instead.

Cooking on the stovetop

Cooking salmon on the stovetop is the ultimate in ease: If you don't want to heat up your oven, sautéing a fillet is the way to go. Or if you're looking for a low-fat option, poaching salmon produces tender, clean-tasting fish.

Sautéing

Sautéing salmon means to cook it quickly in a little fat over fairly high heat. The method is easy and fast, and it works best for fillets, making it a great way to get a delicious weeknight dinner on the table.

Here's how to do it:

In a non-stick skillet, melt about 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat and cook until foam subsides and turns deep gold in color, about 3 minutes.

Season the fillet with salt and pepper and add to pan, skin side up. Cook without turning for about 6 minutes, until fish turns deep brown. Flip the fish and cook until done to taste, 2 to 4 minutes longer.

Poaching

Poaching salmon gives you cleanly cooked fish that makes a beautiful palette for sauces, or a delicious base for salmon salad, croquettes or burgers. It's also a good way to get perfectly cooked fish without any added fat.

Here's the basic method:

Fill a sauté pan with enough water to cover a fillet, and lower the fish in. Sprinkle with salt, a few peppercorns and a bay leaf.

Bring the water to a fast simmer, and turn off the heat. Cover the pan and let the fish cook for 20 to 30 minutes. The salmon should be medium-rare.

Cooking in the oven

Salmon cooked in the oven is a shortcut to dinner bliss. It produces a beautifully burnished entree, it works for all cuts, and it allows you to focus on another part of your meal while the fish cooks.

Grilling

Salmon fillets, steaks and even whole fish are excellent cooked over fire, particularly on a charcoal grill. Steaks are easiest to handle and turn on the grill. Fillets are best grilled with the skin on (cook them skin side down first).

Here's how to grill salmon simply:

Heat your coals or gas grill burner very hot. Brush salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish skin side down on the grate. Cook salmon for about 5 to 6 minutes, then flip. Note: If the fish is sticking to the grill grate, then it's not ready to flip.

Cook for another 3 to 10 minutes, depending upon how hot your fire is. The fish is done when the interior is cooked to your liking and exterior is crisp.


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