Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce

It’s always hard to plan for a fish meal around here, because it all depends on what the market has fresh. You can show up at the store with the best intentions of securing a thick halibut steak only to be disappointed with what clearly looks like it’s been sitting under the glass for a few days. Fish is best fresh, there’s no way around it. The fresher the better. So, the best attitude to approach the fish section is, what looks best? With whole fish, you can usually tell just by looking at the eyes – they should be clear, not foggy and sunken. With fillets, if the surface is dried out and tired looking, that’s not a good sign. The fillet should glisten, like it was just cut, and should smell fresh, not fishy.

The day we cooked this salmon, it was the best looking fish at the counter, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was so good I called my dad over and told him to stop eating his lunch, wrap it up, and get over here to eat this salmon. Which of course he did, because when fish is good, it must be eaten immediately.

The recipe is simple. Just fillets fried in a high smoke point oil (we like to use grape seed oil) and served with a sauce made with lemon juice, stock, and cream. The recipe is adapted from an arctic char recipe we found in The Country Cooking of Ireland by Coleman Andrews.

We like to sauté skin-on salmon, because when the skin is crispy fried, there’s nothing better. It’s like salmon bacon. As for frying the salmon in the first place, well, even with fresh fish, it’s hard to avoid smelling up the kitchen as the salmon cooks. Just make sure you have your stove fan on high. If you really cannot abide by the odors of frying salmon, you can poach the salmon, and serve it with the same sauce.

  • Prep: 5 minutes
  • Cook: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

We used skin-on salmon for this recipe, but you can use skinless fillets if you want. The skin tastes great when it is fried and crispy. When buying skin-on fish, make certain the fish has been scaled. Ask your fishmonger to do this at the store.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (or fish stock or clam juice)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp canola or grape seed oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skin-on salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley for garnish

Method

1 Pour the lemon juice, broth and cream into a small pot and bring to a simmer. Immediately drop the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2 While the sauce is cooking, rinse the salmon in cold water and check for any stray scales (if skin-on). Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Add the canola oil to a sauté pan large enough to fit the fish in one layer. Set the heat to high and let the pan heat up for 90 seconds.

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3 Lay the fish skin side down in the hot pan and turn the heat down to medium. Salt the exposed side of the fish. Let this sizzle away steadily for 3-5 minutes, depending on how thick the fish is. An inch-thick fillet will take about 5 minutes. With a metal spatula, turn the fish, making sure the skin remains attached to the salmon. Salt the skin side of the fish. Cook for another 1-5 minutes, depending on how well-done you like your fish. We like our salmon a little rare in the center, so we cook the second side of a 1-inch fillet about 3 minutes.

4 Set the salmon down on the plate skin side up, then pour some of the sauce over it. Garnish with the parsley and serve at once.

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