This is one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon. This method is quick, simple, and versatile. It gives the fish a lovely texture which blends well with a variety of sauce styles from every continent and cuisine. The flesh gets a beautiful crust and the skin, when nicely crisp is a delicacy in its own right. Occasionally, I serve the salmon skin separately with a Japanese style vinegar flavored rice .
One of the biggest advantages to this method is that it produces great results without long preparation or cooking times. A piece of salmon can be ready in less than 10 minutes, making this a great method for busy people.
This particular evening, I had planned on pairing the pan-seared salmon with a lemon butter sauce but my son had his heart set on teriyaki sauce….so, teriyaki, it is.
Cutting the fish properly helps in the pursuit of perfect results. Even thickness is perhaps the most important thing to look for; center cut portions are nicer than fillets cut from the head or the tail. The tail portion is too thin and often winds up over cooked.
When cutting the fish from a whole fillet, a very good way to proceed is to cut the fish along the mid line and then portion the top half for pan searing; the bottom half, which is rather uneven and quite thin, is better for a quick poach or a sauteed dish.
If you are buying pre-portioned fish, ask for center-cut portions of even thickness and make sure the fish has been well scaled. The most important thing to get is absolutely fresh fish.
Pan-seared salmon: serves 4
prep time: 15 minutes plus time for sauce or butter
- 4-6oz. salmon fillets (center-cut)
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp grape-seed oil
Heat a heavy bottomed well-seasoned pan or cast-iron skillet on high heat. Add the oil and distribute evenly in the pan. Allow the pan to continue heating until the oil begins to smoke. While the oil is heating, remove excess moisture from the fillets with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Place the fillets in the pan flesh side down and cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. You want the fish to sear but don’t allow the oil to smoke at this point. Carefully, lift the fish and turn over. The fish will come up easily when it is ready. If it does not come up easily, let it cook for another minute and try again. When the fish is turned onto the skin side, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 4-5 minutes until a gentle pressure applied to the fish with a finger, tongs, or a spatula just begins to separate the flakes. It will be beautifully succulent and just barely cooked at this point. Continue to cook only if you like your fish more well done. Serve with your favorite sauce or compound butter.
Teriyaki Sauce: makes 1 cup of sauce
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
- 1/3 cup sake (or dry white wine)
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 in. ginger thinly sliced and smashed
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
Assemble all of the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to 1 cup. Strain and reserve for use. Left over sauce can be stored in a container in the refrigerator for a long time.
This basic sauce can be used as a marinade or a light sauce. It can be reduced further or thickened with a cornstarch slurry to the desired consistency.