One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

-Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, "Pavarotti, My Own Story"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Easy Broiled Salmon

I'm not one for expensive, fancy kitchen equipment. More often that not, a knife and a chopping board are all you need to turn out a good meal. However, there is one piece of equipment that has slowly become indispensable to me in the past few months: My cast-iron pan. I love its versatility. It can go from the stove to the oven to the middle of a raging bonfire. Properly taken care of, it becomes naturally nonstick and won't release toxic fumes like teflon nonstick pans when heated.

While you can use a cast iron skillet to make everything from pizza to scrambled eggs to a perfectly seared steak, perhaps my favorite use of it is in this supremely easy salmon recipe. Some fish filets are spread with a tasty mixture of mayonnaise (you can substitute creme fraiche or sour cream), mustard and spices, then broiled in a preheated skillet for about five minutes. The mayo coating keeps the fish moist and the blistering heat of the skillet sears the skin beautifully. Speaking of the skin, a lot of people don't eat it but crisped up this way, it becomes just as delicious as chicken skin - it'd be a shame to discard it!

Easy Broiled Salmon
Adapted from Rick Moonen's book "Fish Without a Doubt", free excerpts of which can be viewed here. Don't skimp on the preheating time for the pan: It is essential for cooking the fish quickly and achieving a good sear. Only use cast iron for this recipe as other nonstick cookware is not broiler-safe. You can season the fish with cayenne pepper or cumin if you don't have smoked paprika.  Serves 4.

1.5 lb (750 g) salmon filets, with or without skin
4 tbsp mayonnaise or creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
0.5 tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard (optional)
Pinch of smoked paprika (optional)

1. Turn on the broiler and heat your cast iron pan under it for 15 minutes. If necessary, cut the filets so that they will fit into the pan in a single layer. 

2. While the pan is heating up, season fish on both sides with salt and black pepper. Brush the skin side with oil.

3. Mix the mustards and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Brush this mixture onto the flesh side of the fish and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika.

4. Using a pair of tongs, carefully lay the filets, skin side down and in a single layer, in the heated pan. Broil for 5-6 minutes, until the top coating is browned and bubbling.