A few months ago, I promised a recipe for my husband Aaron‘s favourite dinner: crispy-skinned salmon with roast potatoes and asparagus. It never happened; mostly as whenever I cooked it, the lighting in our kitchen was bad or it was just too late in the evening for photography (ah, food blogger problems).
However, seeing as we’ve had beautifully light, hot summer days over the past few weeks, you’re finally getting the promised salmon recipe. I hope that it’s worth the wait.
Now, to start I should probably clarify that this is more of a ‘method’ than a recipe. Cooking fish is rather intuitive, so the object of this post is to help you gain familiarity with the process of cooking a perfectly pink, crisp-skinned piece of salmon. It’s definitely not as hard as one might think.
Start by choosing one piece of fish per person. I always choose a 150-175g (5-6 oz) skin-on salmon fillet (cut from the sides of the fish; often boneless) per person; look for fish that is bright, firm and ‘fresh-smelling’ (there should be no overly strong ‘fishy’ odour). Salmon steaks (cross-sections of the fish which always have a central piece of backbone) are also delicious, however you’ll have a harder time achieving a good piece of crispy skin.
Place your salmon skin-side up onto a clean chopping board. Take a good look at it in the light; if you can see any glistening scales, remove them by running your knife at a 90 degree angle against the skin. When the scales have detached, brush them off with a piece of kitchen paper. Run your finger against the grain of the fish to check for ‘pin bones‘, the small floating bones that occasionally remain embedded in the soft flesh after the fish is filleted. If you can feel the tips of any bones, remove them with a pair of tweezers and discard them.
Season the skin well with sea salt flakes, then leave the fillets for a few minutes or until moisture pools on the skin (the salt helps to pull the moisture out of the skin). Blot the skin with paper towels until it’s as dry as possible, then add a little more sea salt. You’re now ready to cook.
Heat some good quality oil (with a high smoke point; I usually use Brookfarm cold-pressed macadamia oil however the more neutral grapeseed oil will perform equally well) in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes or until hot (but not smoking).
Gently place the salmon fillets into the pan, skin-side down, leaving a 2cm gap between fillets (if you have more fish than this allows, you will need to cook your fillets in batches). Cook, skin-side down, for 4-5 minutes depending upon the thickness of your fish. You should see the colour rising on the side of the fillet; when it reaches about half of the way up, season the skinless side of the fillet with salt and pepper, then flip it over.
Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the fish easily flakes with a fork (if you’re testing the sides of the fillet with your fingers, it should still have a slight ‘spring’ to it… salmon is best served when it’s still slightly soft and pink in the centre).
Serve immediately, while the skin is still crispy*, with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus or salad.
* Note to food bloggers: do not leave the crispy-skinned salmon on a plate in a humid kitchen for ten minutes (whilst arranging, primping and photographing it) before serving it to your husband (sorry Aaron)
Herbed Roasted Potatoes
- 2 medium red or purple potatoes (200-250g) per person
- olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, lightly bashed with the back of a knife
- small bunch of rosemary, thyme and sage
- smoked sea salt (I use Gewürzhaus Salish Alder smoked sea salt)
- cracked black pepper
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Wash your potatoes and roughly dice them into 3 cm chunks, then place them into a pot of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked (should be just tender when pierced with a fork). Drain well and leave for a few minutes until any remaining water evaporates. Shake your strainer to slightly roughen the surface of your potatoes, then sprinkle them with smoked sea salt and black pepper.
Pour about 2 tbsp oil into a large roasting pan with the garlic cloves and herbs . If you have a gas hob, place the pan over the heat until the herbs start to crackle; alternately, place the roasting pan into the oven for 5 minutes or until hot. Carefully tip the potatoes into the hot oil, toss and return the pan to the hot oven.
Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes; turn and roast for another 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and add a little more salt if necessary. Serve with sour cream or aioli alongside the seared salmon with a green salad or some grilled asparagus.