After years of searching, I finally cracked the salmon code. I have definitive proof, based on a sample size of one, that there is a recipe for salmon that will silence a crying child. Yes, that is correct: It will turn tears to laughter, I guarantee it. I can’t claim any genius in this regard, but I can point to a convenient intersection of common sense and applied knowledge. More plainly put, I used an herb butter. A lot of an herb butter, that is.
We have long been in the habit of eating wild Alaskan salmon, and because of what’s available to us and our budget, that has tended to be a frozen, leaner cut of salmon. As I now know from my good friends at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state is home to five wild salmon species: king, sockeye, coho, pink, and keta. That list roughly describes their richness, moving from the mouthwatering king to the less luscious keta. Keep in mind that all this salmon is delicious, but in my family my kids have been in the habit of eating wild keta at home and, typically, a farm-raised, über-fatty salmon when they are at their grandmothers. Ask them any day which they prefer, and they’ll say “grandma’s.”
It’s my preference, for reasons of health, well-being, and environmental sustainability, that we eat wild salmon from Alaska, and because I’m the one doing the cooking, that’s what they typically get. What I usually get is some grumbling before they eat it, though they always do eat it.
Tonight, for various reasons that I can’t explain (and even if I could, they probably wouldn’t be interesting—haven’t you ever gotten busy with work?) I had a nice fillet of salmon lingering in the fridge that I had defrosted a few days ago. I was going to cook it Thursday. Then I was going to cook it Friday. We were out last night, so that left tonight. The salmon couldn’t wait any longer.
Given that it had been sitting around for a few days, I was a bit worried about how it would smell and taste. I have to say, though, that even three days after being defrosted, it was clean and crisp smelling. There wasn’t a hint of fishy odor. They must freeze those fillets the moment they are cut.
Knowing that I was going to cook some slightly-old salmon, and knowing who I was going to cook it for—my volatile kids—I softened about four tablespoons of butter well in advance of this evening. (Truth be told, I’ve been softening that butter since Thursday.)
I shook a good bunch of dried thyme into it, and mashed it about. I put the fillet on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, and I turned up the edges of the foil to catch any melting butter. I slathered the herb butter on the fish and I broiled it close to the flame for about five minutes—until it started to brown on top and get sufficiently attractive—and then turned the flame off and let the fish cook through in the hot oven, about four or so more minutes. Your fillet might be a different thickness than mine, and you should adjust cooking temperatures accordingly.
Because of work deadlines and other responsibilities around the house, I was cooking dinner tonight much later than I would have liked. With a six-year-old in the house, that can make a big difference. My youngest was exhausted by the time dinner was on the table, and she was crying inconsolably, saying quite emphatically that she wasn’t hungry, she was tired, tired, tired, tired.”
Santa Maria put her on her lap and let her taste the salmon. She was skeptical, but she took a bite. Her face lit up with smile. “That’s yummy,” she said. She liked it so much that when some dropped on the floor, she picked it up and ate it. Now if that isn’t proof of a good recipe, I don’t know what is.
Smiling Thyme-Butter Salmon
- 1 salmon fillet (figure about 6 ounces per person)
- 1-4 tablespoons of soften butter (depending on how much fish you are cooking)
- 1-3 tablespoons of dried thyme (ditto)
- Salt and pepper
Put the fillet skin-side down on a sheet of foil atop a baking sheet. Curl the edges of the foil up to catch any melthing butter.
Mash the herbs into the butter and spread it thickly on the fish. Salt and pepper the flesh.
Broil under a high flame, close the flame, for about five minutes, or until the top of the fish is browned.
Finish the fish, if necessary, by leaving it in the hot oven (turn the flame off) for a few minutes. The fish is cooked when the color of the flesh changes and it flakes. Watch it carefully, and you will see.
Note: The fish this evening was supplied by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institue, but all opinions are mine.