How to Cook Salmon

Dear Tyler,

There are many ways to cook salmon. I am going to suggest one or two simple methods here to get you going.

I like to cook extra when salmon is on the menu because it makes great salmon salad, like tuna salad. When you were little, the first time you have salmon salad, you came home from school and told me it was the best tuna fish sandwich you ever had.

So you will like salmon as a salad, if you don’t recall.

To make the salmon salad, I used Saffron Aioli, which will be the next posting for you.

To address the salmon:

The easiest way for you to cook it is to  start by rinsing the fish under cold water. If you have a large piece, cut it into pieces about 1″ thick, or as thick as you want your portions to be.

Feel along the flesh to locate pin bones. If you find some, pull them out with needle nose pliers.

Pat it dry with a paper towel.

Rub your fingers over the fish to feel for any “pin bones”. Pull these out with a pair of needle nose pliers. They are hard to get out, that is why we use the pliers. If you don’t have pliers, try to pull them out with your fingers, being careful not to destroy the flesh while doing so.

Be careful not to destroy the flesh as you remove the pin bones. If can be pulled apart easily. Look carefully, see how this part of the fish looks ‘damaged’? It isn’t all smooth and together like the rest of the fish.

If the skin is still on, don’t try to remove it. There is a technique I will need to coach you on later and that will be done in person. The skin will be very easy to remove after the fish is cooked.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. (When the light goes out, the oven has reached 350°F) Pre-heating the oven may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Plan ahead.

Oil an oven proof dish so the salmon won’t stick.

Season the fish with at least salt and pepper. You don’t have to use much, but a pinch will make all the difference. Use your favorite.
Notice the cut portion size.

Season the fish with your favorite seasonings. Salt and pepper are just fine, add a squeeze of lime or lemon; drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Place a saute pan on the heat and get the pan hot. Add a small amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin-film of oil. You can brush it on or pour it and tilt the pan to get the bottom coated.

Place the salmon in the pan, top serving side down first. Sear it until it is golden brown. If the fish is ‘sticking’ to the pan, wait a minute or two. When the salmon is ready to turn, it will release on its own.

Using a metal spatula with slots in it, to turn the salmon over.

This tool is called a fish spatula –  but it is useful for much more than fish!

Place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the fish while you get the rest of the dinner ready.

Total cooking time for salmon is in the general area of 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, the accurate temperature of the oven and how long does the salmon stay on the burner or in the oven.

Safety Hint!

Only place pans in the oven that have oven proof handles! If the handles are plastic or other than metal, they cannot be put in the oven. Check your pans to see if the handles are oven proof before you put the pan in the oven.

Continue to cook the fish until it is no longer raw in the center. You can eat salmon medium rare and even raw, but I would advise buying “Sushi Grade” salmon if you want to eat it less than done.

Sushi grade will cost nearly double. It goes through a freezing process to kill any parasites that won’t be killed by cooking.

If you want to cook some rice to go with the salmon, plan on cooking that just before you start the salmon. It will take about 20 minutes for basmati rice; 50 to 1 hour for brown and heavier grain rice.

While the salmon is cooking, steam some vegetables. In the photo, I chose “Romanesco” which is like a green cauliflower but the florets form a very interesting logarithmic spiral  growth pattern.

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco...

English: The fractal shape form of a Romanesco broccoli. Français : Une tête de chou Romanesco et sa forme fractale. Photo prise avec un appareil Canon D-60 équipé d’un objectif 18-135 mm IS de même marque.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It tastes a bit like a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. Sometimes called Romanesco broccoli or Roman cauliflower, this vegetable has been around since the 16th century.

Since you like broccoli, look for this too. I am sure you will love it just as much. I like it for the wonderful oddness of it all. To me it is just a marvel!

Cook it the same as you would broccoli.

Other ways to cook salmon:

Another way to cook your fish is to wrap it all up in a tin foil bundle and bake it at 350°F for 10 -15 minutes; until it is done.

Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice over the salmon, plate it and gobble it all up.

Or

Place the fish on a sheet pan or oven proof dish and instead of sauteing it in a pan, simply place the dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for 10-15 minutes or until done.

The fish is cooked in all cooking methods when it is no longer dark salmon color in the center, it flakes easily and it reads 145°F on an instant read thermometer.

Cold salmon is delicious too.

It will flake easily when done.

When thinking about what seasonings to choose for salmon, remember salmon has a salty profile with a tinge of sweetness. Sweet vinaigrette such as raspberry vinaigrette or honey Dijon vinaigrette make a great sauce for salmon.

Mix white balsamic (or dark balsamic) vinegar with Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Add olive oil to smooth it out and use that as a sauce. Adjust quantities to taste. You don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk it all together and voila! For raspberries, use melted raspberry jam (seedless) or mash some fresh or thawed frozen berries through a wire mesh strainer to get the pulp without the seeds.

That’s another post!

Let me know if you have any questions.

Bon Apetit!

Love,

Mom

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How to cook – Outfitting Your Kitchen

Dear Tyler,

SO! You are moving into your first apartment. What an exciting time of your life.

Let’s talk about how to outfit your kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time or depend on the university’s dining plan any more.

First you will need some decent pots and pans. There is no need to go buy a full set unless you are planning on doing a lot of cooking. It is best to buy pots and pans as your cooking skills grow.

Always buy the best you can afford. Fortunately for you, I have so many pots and pans to give you but only once. The quality of these should last you a lifetime.

All-Clad and Calphalon are great brands with quality products

A basic set of good quality pots and pans.
These are made by All-Clad – The best in my opinion.

There are a lot of cheap knock offs out there.

As a general rule, NEVER buy a pot or pan with a celebrity name on it like Emeril or Rachael Ray or Paula Dean. The stuff is cheap and not the best quality. It is all about looks not performance.

If you can’t afford All Clad or Calphalon, take a good hard look at them in the store. Pick them up and feel the quality, the balance, notice the construction: how is the handle attached to the body of the pot?

Then, when you shop for other lower priced pots, you will know what top quality feels like and therefore can choose quality when you find it in other pots and pans.

SHOPPING HINT:

You can find All Clad and Calphalon sometimes at Marshall’s, TJ Max, Homegoods, Tuesday Morning all at lower than normal retail prices. They don’t always have them but when they do, they are great values.

If you can’t find them at those stores, larger kitchen stores that carry these brands often have semi-annual sales with free gifts with purchase that are really worth while. No need to ever pay full retail price for them. Take your time and look around.

Yes, this means you need to pack them and move them as you relocate. Now you are accumulating the “stuff” you need to outfit your living space.

More than likely, you will always have a kitchen to cook in from now on.

This is what I recommend you start with:

  • 1- 7 or 8″ non-stick saute pan (frying pan for eggs)
  • 1- 10″ saute pan with lid
  • 1- 2 quart pot with lid
  • 1-5 quart pot to boil water for pasta, making soup etc.
  • A series of graduated stainless bowls – at least 5 in the set
  • A colander or strainer of some kind for straining pasta, vegetables etc.
    • You can have fun with these styles, there are some funky colanders in great colors.
  • A cutting board, get one you like; acrylic or wood, your choice
  • 2 heavy-duty sheet pans – commercial 1/2  and 1/4 sheet pans are best; they last and don’t warp.

Small wares: those things you use and keep in the drawer

  • Microplane–  a hand grater in various shredding sizes.

    Various Microplane shredders

  • Peeler
  • Manual can opener – be sure to wash it when you use it
  • Bowl scrapers are handy for scooping things out of bowls or off your cutting board
  • Large metal kitchen spoons: one slotted(rectangular openings), one perforated (round openings) and one solid – these really come in handy
  • Heat resistant spatulas and bowl scrapers

    Heat resistant spatulas – lots of uses – only buy heat-resistant ones. It says so on the label. Why? Because they melt if you use them on the stove and they are not heat-resistant. Who wants plastic in their food?

  • Various wooden spoons – use on non stick pans – they are usually inexpensive and quite handy. Just don’t catch them on fire
  • Professional grade stainless steel tongs – they become like your other hands. Great for moving things in the pan without piercing ( meat). Buy sturdy ones.
  • Wire whisk – the thinner the wires, and the more of them, the more whisking/whipping action you get. Thicker/fewer wires are for dense food items, thinner ones for whipping cream, egg whites or making hollandaise
  • A decent corkscrew – you never know when you will need one
  • Set of measuring cups – look for ones that have both standard and Imperial measures so you only need one set
  • Measuring spoons – You will need them
  • Off-set metal spatula – for taking cookies off the baking sheet and flipping food in the pan
  • Several kitchen towels, sponges and washing-up cloths. You will use these for removing hot things from the oven and for wiping up messes and drying your hands.
  • Three knives:
    • 1 8-10 inch Chef knife or santoku (Which ever you prefer)
    • 1 paring knife
    • 1 boning knife
    • Made from High Carbon Stainless Steel- all about knives may come later.
      • Safety Tip!
        When removing things from the oven, make sure your towel is completely dry or else you will end up with a nasty steam burn.

With all of this, you should be ready to start cooking.

When you get these things, wash them and give them a home somewhere in your kitchen.

These are not the typical cheap things you find in most college apartments.

Take good care of your equipment and it will last you a lifetime. I have sent you top-quality pots and pans.  Wash them up after each use. Don’t let your roommate burn them up! 😉

Good pots and pans wash up neat. Use Brillo or SOS pads to remove any baked on grease or stains as they happen. Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami are both scrubbing powders that so not scratch so get some to help keep your pans looking brand new. DO NOT use Comet or Ajax, it will scratch too much.

As a general rule, do not put the pots and pans in the dishwasher. Hand wash. Get used to it.

NEVER put your knives in the dishwasher. The heat can make them brittle and break easier.

As I said earlier, I am giving you a great set of pots and pans, just once! You should be able to give your set to your child when they get their first apartment.

Yes, they will last that long and still be like new if you care for them.

They will cost you a small fortune to replace so make sure you take care of them and take them with you when you move.

Next we will start talking about some basic cooking skills you can easily master that will take you a long way.

Let me know what you want to learn to cook. Tonkatsu?

You already know our family favorite: Sardine and Anchovy Pasta.

You are on your own for dishes. Get something you like and fits your budget.

Love always,

Mom