Salmon is refreshing and light, a big change from eating heavy meats with sauces and vegetables. I like its thin fatty skin, plus its tenderness and flavor as it easily flakes apart. And I like seeing its attractive ruby-pink color, For years I use to eat salmon simply sauteed with vegetables stove top in a frying pan. But sometimes I accidentally would overcook the fish and it would turn crisp, dry and hard, not tasty at all. I was always inspecting the center of the fillet to get it done right, slightly firm but still moist and not overcooked. I wasn’t too successful.
But then, more recently I discovered a better way to cook it: steaming it with foil over the top, some water in the pan. That way was okay for awhile, but the taste wasn’t strong enough for me. I searched around for something better. I came across a method of enclosing a large piece of salmon fillet in foil, totally covering the fish, securely, like an envelope. I easily found a similar recipe on the internet, but then as usual tweaked it to my liking. I’m sure this method will be my go-to-one for salmon, and I’ll also use it with other fish dishes too.
Preparing the salmon a certain way helps add just the right flavor, especially with garlic, lemon and herbs, and of course salt and pepper which accents the flavor. I’m truly not too picky with herbs. I like the subtle taste they add, (and with the fish, once mixed with lemon and garlic), but I often just combine whatever herbs I have on hand from my garden, not being picky about which ones I toss in. I pick them fresh throughout the growing season, then simply, easily dry them in large open brown bags. To get the most flavor from the herbs, it’s best to cut and pick them before they flower. When, months or weeks later, and once they’re totally dried and it’s time to use them, I just pick up the bag, holding the top tight, shake it vigorously and grab a handful. I pick out the stiff dried sticks, rub the leaves well between my fingers, and as much as I want in my dish. Some of the fresh herbs I use are a mix of basil, winter savory, thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, rosemary and tarragon. Pick your favorite, grow them or buy them at your local supermarket.
INGREDIENTS Serves 3-4
1 1/2 lb salmon fillet, kept intact in one long strip, with or without the thin layer of fat
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
2 tsp dried assorted herbs
2 small lemons, one, sliced thin, the other cut in half
1-2 tsp salt, divided
2 tsp flour (optional)
1 tsp pepper
3 scallions, coarsely chopped (optional), white and green parts
1-2 tsp soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Use salmon with or without skin, your choice. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently pat the salmon dry on both sides. Mix the salt and pepper (with flour if using) and spread half of it evenly over the fish, and on the back side too. Set the fish aside.
2 Using a large rimmed baking sheet, cover it with a big piece of aluminum foil. Spray it lightly with a cooking spray. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of the herbs in a rather straight line, in the center, along the long side of the pan. Lay about five or six slices of the lemon down the middle of the foil, covering the herbs. Scatter the garlic pieces on top of the herbs. Place the salmon on top of the garlic and herbs. Drizzle about 1 + tablespoon of oil over the herbs, garlic, lemon slices and salmon. Spread everything around gently with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle on the salmon the remaining salt, pepper and flour mixture. Squeeze both lemon halves, (or just one half, or no more lemon at all, if you wish less lemon flavor), on the salmon. (If no lemon juice is added at all, add one quarter cup chicken broth on the salmon.) Scatter the scallions on top of the salmon, along with the rest of the herbs. Add soy sauce, if using. Drizzle the remaining oil on top of salmon.
3 Carefully, but loosely, fold the long side of the aluminum foil over the salmon, fold the other long side over, than, one after the other, fold the 2 shorter sides in. Turn the entire package over to its other side. Gently poke the package with a sharp knife, 3 or 4 little holes through the top of the foil, do not pierce the fish or poke too deeply. This process will let some steam escape.
4 Cook for fifteen-seventeen minutes. Check with a knife, pierce the fish, opening the foil slightly. If it looks partially raw, or doesn’t flake easily with a fork on the inside, recover the salmon and cook another five minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Be careful not to overcook the salmon. The salmon will cook for another minute or two once removed from the oven. Or use an instant oven thermometer and the fish is done when cooked 137-140 degrees. Be cautions when opening the foil so as not to get burned by the steam! There will be a juicy, lemony sauce; save it, pour it over whatever starch you like with the salmon.
5 Cool for five to ten minutes and serve with asparagus, a salad, and perhaps a crusty bread to soak up the juices.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- If you don’t want any thickish sauce at all, leave out the flour.
- Scrape 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger with the herbs for a nice accent at step 2.
- If you don’t like lemon try this: At step 2, cut out all the lemon and its juices, and add a scant one quarter cup chicken broth instead of the lemon. At the end of step 2, add another scant one quarter cup of chicken broth rather than squeezing the lemon juice on the salmon.
- Use this idea if you don’t use any lemon with the salmon. Dill cream sauce recipe: Heat a fry pan with 1 Tablespoon butter, melt it on low. add 1 teaspoon garlic, stir for one minute on low heat. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons flour. Stir for a minute on low, add three quarters cup of milk, plus 1 tablespoon fresh dill, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a bit of salt and pepper. Cook on low-medium heat and stir for 2-4 minutes until thickened as you like it. Adjust any seasoning.