03 June 2014

Bittman Butter Salmon

I've made this salmon every Monday night for the past 3 weeks. Monday evenings just seem to beckon for a meal with only a few ingredients and high flavor punch. Though the light was just with me enough to produce a publishable exposure this last time around, I hope you'll pardon the moodiness. Because this simply prepared fish, not particularly prone to moods, bears sharing. I've been dabbling on a few roads with salmon lately; a one-side down high-heat stint was my go-to, then a slow and low roast, then a pan-sear finished in the oven. But recently I had been experiencing a slight Goldilocks effect with all them...slow and low cooked the inside marvelously silkily but I still preferred the texture of a bit more outer char. Pan roast is great, cast iron fish smell, the sacrifice. I hear about parchment, but don't like things to be left unseen. I was in the market for a hack, therefore, and a few things about Mark Bittman's Butter Roast Salmon made me put my money on it. It seemed like a hybrid effect at play. High heat, both sides, oven only, no broiler. This one, unearthed from his cookbook more than a few years old at this point, is one to keep in your back pocket.

The technique involves preheating a sheet pan with a knob of butter on it and letting it melt a minute or two. Then you drop in some seasonings, maybe some minced garlic or shallot, zest...into the butter. You season and plop down the salmon on its front side and stick it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then, in a nifty trick I learned this way, you can peel the skin that's starting to loosen, right off. Season that now skinless side and flip it over to finish for 5 or 8 more minutes. I like to rest it with a little foil over after. And that's that. Slice after it rests against the grain, like meat, and you get this lovely moist, meaty interior with tender little juicy flakes. The outside will have that small seared tinge. One thing with this recipe and the internet...some versions have you flip, others do not. I flip and that's what I think makes it more foolproof. That's the hack. Because if you have a thick cut say from the center, you really need to get both sides in contact with heat/pan/fat. A note on the butter. It's not a ton. Don't worry, if you're worried about butterfat, but do use a good quality. The original recipe is for a 2 lb fillet and he has you use about 4 Tbsp. I do a wee bit under a pound and get away with about 1.5 Tbsp. And after it cooks, you of course, spoon the accumulated seasoned buttery fish juices over the fillet along with some lemon, and there's no need for any other sauce. Enjoy!

Bittman's Butter Roast Salmon

2 Tbsp butter
1 lb salmon fillet, with skin
Sea salt and pepper
Any or all of the following:
1 small garlic clove, shallot, minced, pinch red pepper flakes, 1 Tbsp mixed fresh minced herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, pinch lemon zest.
Lemon juice to serve

Oven to 450 (he does 475, yesterday was hot enough)
Blot the salmon with paper towels to dry, season the upside with salt and pepper. 
Place the butter on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow dish, and place into the oven for a moment or two. When you hear it melting, and see bubbles, remove, and spoon garlic/herb mixture over the butter, swirling. Place the salmon presentation side down, into the pan, swirling it around to coat. 
Place in oven 5 minutes. Remove and quickly peel off skin, which should be heated enough to slide off. If it isn't, let it go another moment. Pinch salt and pepper onto the newly skinned side. Flip the fish so skin(ed) side is down, cook 5 to 8 more minutes, 10 if the piece is very thick. The tip of a knife should slide through without much resistance, and the center just opaque. Slide a piece of foil over and let cool a few minutes. Serve in crosswise slices with accumulated juices and squeezed lemon. 

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