Salmon is the iconic food of the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve lived my entire life. But even if you don’t live around here, you can likely get excellent wild-caught salmon. This is a great opportunity to learn about carry-over cooking, which is when foods continue to cook internally even after being removed from the heat. You want to remove the salmon from the pan when it is one shade lighter than how you’d like to eat it. Because of its vibrant color, it’s very easy to see to what extent salmon is cooked through. I like salmon best when it’s cooked medium, with a thin swath that’s still translucent in the thickest part of the fillet.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1½ pounds center-cut salmon, skin on, cut into 4 uniform pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season both sides of each piece of salmon with ¼ teaspoon of the salt and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper.
- Heat a black steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking. Add all of the salmon, skin side down, and press lightly with the back of a fish spatula to ensure a good sear on the skin. Cook until the fish looks opaque approximately halfway up the sides, about 3 minutes. Add the butter to the pan. Allow it to melt, and then baste it over the fish with a spoon for about 30 seconds, until the butter has lightly cooked the surface of the fish.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and again baste the fish with the butter. Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces. The thicker the pieces, the longer they will take to cook. Very thick pieces, near 2 inches, may take up to 9 minutes total. To check for doneness, remove the pan from the oven, and using a fish spatula or the sharp pointed end of a paring knife, pull back slightly at one of the natural breaks of the flesh of a smaller piece. Peek inside and make sure the meat is almost entirely opaque. A little translucence should remain at the center. Like a steak, the salmon should spring back when gently pressed but not feel overly firm.
- To serve with Oven-Glazed Shallots and Horseradish Crème Fraîche as shown (see photo), make the crème fraîche up to 1 day ahead of time. The glazed shallots can be made up to 1 hour in advance, then reheated in the pot in which they were cooked just before serving.
- Place each piece of salmon on a plate. Arrange 3 or 4 glazed shallots alongside the salmon and top with a tablespoon of the crème fraîche and a sprig of dill.