Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Iron Skillet Salmon

The Capt. couldn’t ignore the salmon jumping around the boat at Pavlof Harbor (link to Pavlof Cruise News post), he just had to go fishing. Wind had kicked up some chunky chop outside our protected anchorage so he settled for the calmer water inside the harbor. Did he plan to catch any salmon? It didn’t seem to matter; fishing was the activity of choice for the afternoon. We had fish in the freezer, fish in the fridge curing for lox, and had enjoyed fish for several meals already.  He hooked three coho and brought one back to the big boat.

Okay, I started one more batch of lox, and that left two nice tail pieces and some trimmings. The trimmings were tasty breakfast treats, the first batch of lox provided some lunch and appetizer snacks, and those two tail pieces didn’t warrant a barbecue preparation. Now what? It was time for a new experiment.

My new cookbook, Dishes and Fishes, touted a fast broil in a superheated cast iron skillet. It was worth a try… it it failed we could always have popcorn for dinner. The cookbook recommended a simple salt and pepper coating, but noted the method also worked with marinated fillets. Good idea, I was in the mood for something Asian. It took a scant two hours of marinating in a mix of teriyaki/Ponzu/seasoned rice vinegar, followed by patting dry, and those tail pieces were ready to go. Accompanied by braised baby bok choy and white rice, this menu was voted a keeper. No, it won’t take the place of our favorite BBQ Salmon with Special Sauce, but it was awfully good for an easy meal.

A short version of the directions: marinate the fish, heat a cast iron skillet at 500 for 20 minutes, dry the fish really well and place meat side down on the skillet. Place under the broiler and cook just until done. 

Specific directions?.... I'll insert them soon, at my next internet connection.

27 August, 2010      Bar Harbor, Ketchikan
We're back in town and wi-fi is alive again. Here's the promised update.

Cast Iron Broiled Salmon
From The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook, Kiyo & Tomi Marsh, Epicenter Press

It’s all about the method. Preheat the heavy cast iron skillet or grill pan, make sure the fish has been patted very very dry, and don’t overcook the fish. The method works well with almost any fish,  marinated or not.

2 to 4 salmon fillets, skin on, deboned
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
OR your favorite marinade (optional)
1 tsp oil (peanut, canola or extra virgin olive oil)

Directions (my version)
If you have brined or marinated your fish, begin with step 2.

  1. Sprinkle the fillets with the salt and pepper; let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.
  2. Work with a cast-iron pan just large enough to hold the pieces of fish you’re working with. Heat up the pan only under the broiler for 5 to10 minutes. The fish should end up about 4 inches below the element, so adjust your racks ahead of time.
  3. While the pan is preheating, pat the salmon fillets dry, very dry, rubbing off the marinade if you used any.
  4. Carefully pull the very hot skillet from the broiler; add the oil to the skillet and swirl it around. Place the pan back under the broiler for another minute to warm the oil. Remove pan from broiler.
  5. Place the fillets flesh side down in the skillet
  6. Quickly slide the skillet back under the broiler; cook for 4 to 6 minutes for thin pieces, or 8 to 10 minutes for very thick or larger pieces. Check the salmon mid-way through to make sure it’s not overcooking. Fish continues to cook for a few minutes after you pull it out of the oven, so remove it when the middle is still a little translucent (not raw). The salmon skin will be blackened and the flesh side should have an attractive sear, especially if you used a grill pan with ridges.
  7. Pull off the blackened skin and flip the fillets over to serve seared side up.

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