Even for someone who cooks to relax like I do, deciding what to make for dinner is never fun. On a whim, I decided to grab a bag of frozen salmon at Wegmans last time I went shopping. It was about the same price per pound as the chicken I normally buy, which means it’s probably not from the most honorable of sources, but it is extremely healthy and easy to defrost at the last minute. To safely defrost, either transfer a few well-wrapped fillets to the fridge the night before, or put in a bowl (still well-wrapped) and place under running cold water for about 10 minutes.
Cooking salmon is just as easy. As with cooking any other protein, a good thermometer is vital to pulling the food off the heat right as it reaches a safe temperature before it overcooks, in this case between 130F and 140F. My thermometer is the Thermoworks Super-Fast Pocket Thermometer and it’s awesome (it was a Christmas gift, too- thanks Mom!). This salmon was skinless, so my cooking method was just a little different than if there was skin that I’d want to crisp up.
The first step is to preheat the oven to 425F. Then heat up a splash of oil, a splash of soy sauce, and a splash of balsamic vinegar (you can omit one or both if you’d like, but it tastes great this way!) over high heat in an oven-safe skillet. I used my cast iron as it is very well seasoned, which makes it nonstick, but I wouldn’t recommend this with a new or recently washed cast iron. As the skillet heats, dry both sides of the fish very thoroughly- the less water there is to evaporate, the sooner the fish will start to sear and get those crisp brown edges (thanks to the Maillard reaction). Season both sides with salt and pepper as well, and tuck the thin edge under itself so it doesn’t burn out there all by itself. Sear for a few minutes on each side, until the fish releases easily and the edges are pleasingly browned. Take the fish’s temperature in the thickest part of the fillet; if it isn’t at least 130F, move the fish to the oven for 3-7 minutes, checking occasionally, to finish cooking. The salmon should be perfectly moist and juuuust barely flaking apart with salty, crunchy edges and a healthy dose of omega-3s.
For a side, I attempted to make creamy farro with swiss chard. The swiss chard part went very well… the farro not so much. For the chard, I stripped the leaves off the stems, which resemble celery stalks. I tossed those with some minced shallot into a large saute pan with some olive oil to brown and soften. While those softened, I did a large chiffonade on the leaves and added them to wilt. I seasoned the chard- after wilting, to avoid flavor concentration- with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar, and set it aside.
Now, what I should have done with the farro was cook it like a fast-cooking risotto and then add the chard at the end. This would have released the starches into the cooking liquid and made a nice, creamy, flavorful sauce. Instead, I boiled and drained the farro like pasta and ended up with something that was much more rice-like.
Not a bad thing, but not what I was aiming for. This would be better for cold applications like salads. I tried to rescue it with a creamy sauce that I made separately with cream cheese, parmesan, and chicken broth, but it did nothing to improve the texture. Mixed with the chard, it did taste delicious however! I’ll try again soon, the right way, and let you all know how it goes.
Served up alongside the salmon, this meal provides a nutrient-dense helping of protein, fiber, unsaturated fats (most importantly, omega-3s), and just about every vitamin and mineral- all in under 30 minutes.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and/or soy sauce
- 3 oz fillet salmon, skinless
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Heat the oil, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar over high heat in an oven-safe skillet.
- As the skillet heats, dry both sides of the fish very thoroughly and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Tuck the thin edge under itself so it doesn't burn. Sear for a few minutes on each side, until the fish releases easily and the edges are crisp and browned.
- If the center of the fish is not yet at 130F, move the fish to the oven for 3-7 minutes, checking occasionally, to finish cooking.