Now I'll admit, fresh salmon isn't as cheap as Stromboli or spaghetti. But there will come a time when you want to impress someone with your college cooking skills.
Here we'll explore several cooking methods and ways to flavor salmon beyond lemon and butter (and this can apply to other species of fish too). I'll even show you what to look for at the grocer.
Green Salmon: Dredged in pesto and baked.
Yellow Salmon: My girlfriend's favorite seasoning blend - cooked in/on a pan or griddle.
Red Salmon: Still looking for more uses for salsa. Steamed with red wine.
You could argue that this is not a college meal... Well, I'm in college and it's my meal - a special one too ;) While it may be on the more technical side, I'm breaking it down to maximize success.
Also pictured in this meal are Steve's Sugar Soy Sauce Mushroom Tops.
Step 1: Ingredients
Citrus Creations seasoning blend
You're favorite tomato based salsa
*see next step for how to purchase and prepare
And you thought it was going to be a complicated shopping list. These recipe's follow an almost fool proof rule. Simple flavors for a clutterless robust taste.
Step 2: Selecting Your Meat
Fish.. should not taste fishy. The less odor it has, the better. Whole salmon is preferred, but it's not available to me at a decent price. However, cleaned and scaled side fillets are.
You may find that your salmon comes with an ingredients list. Unfortunately, farmed salmon doesn't have a very red diet. So they are artificially colored. The consumer just won't buy non pink salmon. I say this because you can't base your buying decision on color if all your salmon has been artificially colored.
If available, Alaskan Salmon is much better than farmed as it is not over fished. Alaskan salmon will probably be more expensive, and also have a deeper red color compared to it's farmed counterpart. I also find the natural flavor to be more intense (remember that it's a mild tasting fish) than farmed ;)
Your fish should have little or no odor. It should not look slimy and the meat should stay together when handled.
As with any meat, the first step is to rinse. Rinse thoroughly and take that time to see if there's any leftover scales that will need removal.
For these recipes, first cut away the top inch as shown (top meaning the thinner portion). This thin section has a slightly different taste and only screws up cooking time due to it's thickness (or lack thereof). Also cut away about 1" from the tail section due to it's thickness.
Next, cut 1-1.5 inch steaks.
Step 3: Seasoning
If you're making all three, place every third steak into a clean bowl (this ensures every flavor gets similar sized steaks). Now coat will with green pesto and set aside.
Again, place every third steak in a clean bowl. Coat well with citrus seasoning and set aside.
Take the remaining salmon and place in a clean bowl. Cover in you're favorite salsa and add a little bit of red wine (you're choice). Set aside.
We're setting everything aside while we setup the cooking hardware. This allows a little bit of marinading time.
Step 4: Hardware and Cook Time
Baking pan -- covered in foil and lightly oiled.
For each inch of salmon, bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes -- do not flip.
One pan or a griddle -- see next step for timing/instructions.
Steaming Tray. I'm into cooking and have acquired a pot with a steaming shelf thingamabob. You might not have one -- but that's okay. For about $5-$9 you can buy a steamer for a non Teflon coated pot. It looks like a short collapsible colander and I used to use one all the time for steaming veggies among other things.
Cook time will vary (based on food shape, steam intensity etc.), but will be approximately 10 minutes per inch of salmon steak thickness.
Step 5: Cooking!
IF making all three and assuming everything is the same thickness -- Start the red and green salmon at the same time and then the yellow ;)
With your oven preheated to 350 and your salmon steaks spaced about an inch apart on a lightly greased and foiled baking sheet -- place in the oven.
This one is a little more technical, and I fudged it up a little (but it was saved).
While you're preheating the oven, also preheat a pan with no oil -- if you're using a Teflon coated pan DO NOT PREHEAT. Without something cooking in there, you can easily reach the 450-500 degree range when Teflon starts emitting some nasty (read: deadly) gases.
Once preheated, add enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the pan lightly and lower the stove to medium low. There's nothing wrong with adding cool oil to a hot pan -- this is always my practice which keeps the oil virgin for as long as possible. So if you're oil has a flavor (I'm using a good olive oil), it will impart more of its flavor into your food.
Immediately place all of your salmon steaks (or as many as can fit) into your pan. After about 10 seconds or so, give them a little move around to make sure they are not sticking. Cook for about 3-5 minutes (the bottom should be a nice golden color) and turn onto the next (second of four sides) side. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and turn. Repeat until all sides are cooked.
You'll notice from my pictures that my pan looks blackish... I accidentally preheated on a high setting and did not give it adequate time to cool off -- my pots/pans are heavy, so it takes a while to dump all that heat :P I remedied my situation by removing the pan from the heat, lowering the stove and then I continued cooking. In the last step, I'll show you how to clean this without any heavy duty scrubbing and without an angle grinder (long story).
Place each piece in your steaming tray with at least an inch of spacing between each. Place steaming tray/colander/etc. into your steam source and cover.
Step 6: Serving Suggestions
This is my special meal for my valentine :)
This was being served with Steve's Sugar Soy Sauce Mushroom Tops and a blue cheese chop salad from Outback steakhouse (dressing soon to be reverse engineered).
My valentine just had blood drawn (for tests), a very uncomfortable chest X-ray and a liver and kidney ultrasound with a tech with poor bedside manners :/ The chop salad is one of her favorite dishes - and she deserved it :)
Step 7: Cleaning That Stubborn Pot/Pan!
We're going to borrow a trick for making Au Jus (which means "with broth" in French).
While the pan is still hot, drain off any liquid oil (or as much as you can). Then allow the pan to cool a little.
When the pan is cool (such that it is safe to add water), cover the difficult to clean area with about 2 inches of water. Now boil away. I did this while eating dinner (the dining room is not far away). Once dinner was done (about 30 or so minutes), use a spatula and rub anything stuck on the bottom of your pan off. Drain the water and wash normally -- everything should come off very easily ;)
Normally, Au Jus is made by de-glazing (the process described above) with a smaller amount of wine and water making a broth from whatever was left behind by the meat you just cooked (almost always red meat).