A couple of weeks ago, I learned something very upsetting: Salmon is now hopelessly out of fashion. Just a few years ago, it was the world’s miracle meat. I remember watching some doctor on Oprah who touted the benefits of eating wild-caught salmon twice a day: this program provided a makeover from within, rejuvenating the skin, disappearing the wrinkles, and blitzing the whole body with a mega-dose of anti-inflammatory magic. No one anywhere had a cross word to say about salmon in 2007. Fast forward a few years: wild salmon are over-fished, and farm-raised salmon are laced with chemicals (probably hopelessly intertwined with their omega-3s). Who knew?
I don’t have a fishmonger, and I don’t mingle in foodie circles, so I was slow to hear about this anti-salmon revolution, but I had noticed that trout was suddenly available at the fish counter at Kroger, and one day it was on sale, so I bought some and thought I’d give it a try. It was my cursory online exploration of trout recipes that led me to glum discoveries about salmon’s waning popularity. The good news is that trout tastes almost identical to salmon, and it behaves just the same in a recipe, so all my salmon know-how won’t be lost…at least until trout goes out of style.
This technique, by the way, works just as well with any piece of fish–fresh or thawed–and it’s super quick. So even if you can’t get or don’t like the pink-fleshed fishes, you can still try this “recipe.” I confess to making this dish so often that, on the rare occasions when I prepare chicken breasts, my kids call IT “salmon.” The only caveat I should include is that once you know how to make your own restaurant-style fish, you’ll be disinclined to order the expensive fresh catch at a restaurant because you’ll be able to do it better yourself at home.
To make your own restaurant style fish….
Brush your fresh or thawed fillets with olive oil (or just use your hands to slather them up)!
Sprinkle them liberally with something tasty. This week, I used Penzey’s Turkish Seasoning, but you can use any fish-friendly seasoning blend you like. I’m a Penzey’s addict, and I use their Cajun, Southwest, and Northwoods on my fish regularly. If you choose a salt-free blend, you will want to add some salt, too.
Pop them into a super-hot oven–I usually set mine to 475 degrees–and let them cook. I can’t tell you how long to leave them in there. It will depend on how thick they are and how hot your oven really is. You should keep an eye on them, though, because it won’t take long. The fillets I made this week took about 6 minutes. Peek at them to make sure they aren’t burning (obviously), and yank them out when they start looking promising so that you can feel them. You want them to be firm to the touch but still slightly underdone in the middle. In other words, they shouldn’t yet “flake easily with a fork”–but almost. If you stick a fork in them and twist, you should see a middle that is still a little bit translucent. Getting them out at just the right time is the only tricky part. Honestly. But even if you overcook them a touch, they’ll still be good!
Put a little pat of butter on top of each of your slightly undercooked fillets and cover the pan with foil. (They will finish cooking while the butter seeps down into them.) Then set to work getting the rest of your dinner put together.
Just before you serve your food, squeeze some lemon juice or lime juice over the top of your fish in the pan. The resulting juices in the bottom of the pan will be a mixture of seasoning blend, fish juices, butter, and citrus. Call it “sauce” and drizzle it over your fish when you put it on the plates. (That’s the restaurant-style bit.)