Simple Salmon

Straight to Recipes

Grilled Salmon

Will May be all about flourishing or perishing? It's hard to know at the time of writing, so, having splurged on a new set of thermals, which is bound to create a change in the weather, I'm hedging my bets with two takes on that most versatile of ingredients, fresh salmon.

The first treatment assumes a degree - well, hopefully, a few more degrees - of meteorological normality and is blissfully simple, as befits first-class ingredients. There are just three of them, along with a few seasonings and lubricants so they need to be good. The wine should be too - white, unoaked and concentrated, or pink, dry and patrician.

Firstly, the fish. Fish farms keep us all going, but there's no getting away from the seasonal thrill of the wild stuff. I wouldn't recommend the Pacific or Alaskan variety, which, owing to the acrobatic leaping it does, often into the jaws of a hungry bear, is a tad too dense and muscular for this tender dish, and needs well-flavoured marinades. Those of us west of the Severn Bridge will, of course, be coracle-watching for a first fix of our native sewin.

Next up, Jersey Royals, which open their account as luxury goods, but do get cheaper as the season progresses. Their tender, waxy, nutty flesh is second to none and just the sight of their papery skins lifts the heart. Thirdly, asparagus, home-produced as a matter of policy, and on the thickish, finger-sized side as a matter of preference.

The second approach, lest clouts be unready for casting, has a touch of the winter warmers about it. Roasted rather than grilled and served on a bed of Puy lentils cooked in a mixture of very good stock and red wine, it's very stylish comfort food. I first discovered the joys of salmon and red wine twenty years ago while on a visit to Saint-Emilion, and it has to be said that claret has the perfect balance of fruit and acidity for it, though pinot noir and cabernet franc do exactly the same job.


Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, and Superspuds

Serves 2

  • Two skin-on, pin-boned fillets of fresh salmon, tail or middle, about 175g each
  • Olive oil - a spray is very useful for this
  • Whole salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 150g Jersey Royal potatoes, lightly scrubbed to remove the papery bits
  • A small bunch of fresh English asparagus, woody stems snapped off
  • 30g butter
  • Freshly-ground white pepper (for the asparagus - trust me)
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley, tarragon or dill, or a mixure.
  • 1 lemon

Bring a pan of water to simmering point. While that's happening, remove the grid from your grill pan and line the base with foil. Spray lightly with oil and brush over the foil to stop the fish from sticking. Put the fish into the pan, skin-side up and brush the skin with a little oil. Season with whole salt and black pepper and brush again. Preheat the grill to its highest setting.

Now get the potatoes underway. Add them carefully to the simmering water with a slotted spoon, along with a pinch of salt. Boil until they just yield to the point of a knife.

Once they are bubbling away merrily, grill the salmon on a middle to high shelf. Give it a couple of minutes, until the skin is brown and starting to blister, then move it to a lower shelf. A tail will take about 5-7 minutes, a middle fillet a little longer.

Meanwhile, tie the asparagus in a bunch and steam upright for about 4 minutes for a bit of a crunch. Divide the spears between two warmed plates and dress with half the butter and some white pepper.

The potatoes should be ready, so drain them and add them to the plates, dotted with the remaining butter and garnished with the herbs. Arrange them next to the asparagus on the plates. Finish with the salmon. The skin will be blackened and crisp and (optionally) good to eat. Peeled back, it will reveal moist, pink, perfectly-cooked flesh.

Slice the remaining lemon half into two quarters and put one on each plate to be squeezed liberally.


Roast Salmon Fillet with Wine-Poached Lentils

Serves 2

  • 120g Puy lentils, picked over for stones or foreign bodies and rinsed well
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped, leaves and all
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed of fronds and outer layers, and finely chopped
  • 1 fat garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 175ml fruity red wine
  • 200ml well-flavoured fish stock
  • half a bottle of fruity red wine
  • A bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay
  • 2 thick middle cut salmon fillets, about 200g each
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • a tablespoon of Bordeaux red wine vinegar
  • a heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Roasted Salmon

Let the washed lentils drain while you soften the shallot, celery and fennel in 2 tbs of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Now tip in the lentils and give everything a stir.

Mix the wine and the stock and add to the lentils, along with the bouquet garni. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 25 minutes. The lentils should retain some bite. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.

On the hob, heat up a shallow, non-stick pan that will go in the oven. Anoint the salmon fillets (not the pan) liberally with the remaining oil and season well. Carefully place them in the hot pan and let them sear, undisturbed for two minutes before gently flipping them over with a fish slice and spatula. Don't force them or half your dinner will be stuck to the pan in the most horrible way.

Don an oven glove and transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking. Depending on thickness. 7-8 minutes should be plenty.

The lentils should now be done. Lift them out of the pan and return it to the heat to reduce and concentrate the juices, tasting as you go. Season the lentils while they are still hot. Add black pepper with the mustard and the vinegar, then check to see if they need more salt.

Spoon the lentils, along with the soupy liquor, into shallow bowls and top each with a salmon fillet. Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Match of the Day

Grilled Salmon, Asparagus, and Superspuds
The agent provocateur here is the asparagus, though less so when muffled by other ingredients. Avoid oak and go for aroma, raciness and class in a glass. My dream match is a fine dry Alsace muscat, but a top-drawer Kiwi sauvignon like Greywacke is wonderful too. I have also enjoyed this with Gérard Gauby's white Roussillons.

Roast Salmon Fillet with Wine-Poached Lentils
A more down-to-earth feast for digestible reds like fruity, merlot-dominant claret, such as Haut Sociondo, or a lightish red Burgundy like Sylvain Pataille's lovely Marsannay.

Janet Wynne Evans

May 2013

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