Tag fish

Mark Bittman’s Four-Spice Salmon and How to Cook Fish

The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman — aka The Minimalist — has a great video on making Four-Spice Salmon. It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write two posts — one on the matter of eating seafood and one on how to cook fish. So I’ll take Bittman’s video (which includes two tricks I use myself) as my excuse to write up my cooking tips. While Bittman pan fries his salmon in the video, my tips are geared towards roasting or grilling.

#1: Cook Individual Pieces: Cut the filet into individual portions before you cook it. Not only will it look nicer on the plate, but it will help you cook all the pieces evenly and make it easier to determine when the fish is done. If you’re cooking an uncut three-pound piece, it’s sooooo difficult to know when the thickest center pieces are ready.

#2: Use a spice rub: This is Bittman’s second tip and I second it. No I third it! In any case, I approve. In the video he mixes cumin, coriander, nutmeg and clove. Because I sometimes don’t have time to make my own spice mix, I’ve also bought them. My current obsession is Whole Food’s Tequila Lime spice mix, a combination of chili pepper, coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic, onion, parsley, lime and tequila. Or “tequila flavor,” at least. Bittman puts the spice mix on top of the fish. Why stop there? I smear the mix on all sides of the fish.

#3 Buy an oven thermometer: The oven gods are fickle and rarely heat the oven to the temperature that you set it for. An inexpensive thermometer will tell you your oven’s true temperature, helping you reach your pre-heating goal. And when it comes to cooking fish, you need to have confidence in your oven temperature so that you can be confident in your cooking time.

#4 Time It: Rather than going by the old “10 minutes per inch of thickness” rule of thumb, I recommend using a resource like Weber’s On the Grill app, which provides standard cooking times for different kinds of seafood (and meats as well). if you’re making tuna or salmon, which some people eat rare or medium rare, adjust the time to suit your taste. If the timer goes off and you’re not sure that the fish is really cooked through, take it out of the oven, cover it with tin foil and let it “rest” for 5 minutes. It will keep cooking but much more slowly than it would in the oven, so you’re not as likely to over-cook it by mistake.

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Simple, Delicious Salmon

Cooking fish can be tricky. It’s easy to worry about under-cooking it and then over-cook it by  mistake. We cook some kind of seafood at least once a week, and yet so often I hesitate to say that the fish is done. I’ll offer my tips for cooking fish well in a later post. For now I want to share a recipe for salmon that is simple, delicious, and truly idiot-proof.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 T oil
2 cloves of garlic, mashed with salt
1 T minced ginger
2 T brown sugar

1 lb salmon, washed and dried

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce and pour over salmon to marinate

Roast fish for about 10 minutes, basting with the sauce once or twice. (If the sugar in the marinade starts to burn, lower the rack.) And voila!

The marinade keeps the fish so moist that even if you over-cook it a bit, it never tastes dry. Last night, as you can see from the photo, I served it over Udon Noodles with Soy-ginger sauce, a preparation that earned an A from The Professor.

For a heart-warming winter meal, serve the salmon on a bed of leek and pea risotto. In the summer, I’ve served the salmon alongside Israeli couscous and grilled asparagus. For a lighter meal, it would be delicious served with a spinach salad.

I love this salmon recipe because it’s simple to prepare, offers myriad meal options, and it is endlessly forgiving — which makes it great for dinner parties or even family dinners with multiple elements. I know that the salmon can sit while the pasta cooks a few more minutes or the asparagus is grilled or the guests are herded to the table and that it will still taste good.