Since my brain decided to take today off, allow me to present a recipe–or rather, a cooking method–that requires no brain power whatsoever.
This is one of our go-to choices for the end of the week, not just because it’s simply, but also because it’s flexible, tasty, and a darn sight healthier than other no-brain meal options.
I’m talking about salmon.
“What?” I hear somebody say, “Doesn’t that require all sorts of annoying paraphernalia like cedar planks, and finicky cooking over open flames?”
Nope. I mean, you can do it that way, and it’s good eating, but for everyday* cooking, something simpler seems warranted.
* I don’t recommend doing this every day, though I suppose you could. The FDA recommends two meals a week of “fish that are low in mercury” and provides a list that includes salmon. And varying your spices can dramatically change the taste of the fish. But I still think seven meals a week is excessive.
Start with the fish. Since we’re going for simplicity, don’t get a whole fish and fillet it yourself. Let someone else do the work. If your local market doesn’t have salmon fillets–fresh or frozen–find a new market.
I’m not going to recapitulate the entire argument about wild-caught versus farm-raised. I’ll just note that the majority of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List’s recommendations for salmon are for wild-caught. And, by the way, their choices overwhelmingly favor Pacific salmon, not Atlantic.
So, start the oven pre-heating to 500.
While you’re waiting on the oven, find a cookie sheet or broiling pan large enough to hold your fillets and a piece of aluminum foil twice as long as the pan. Place the foil in the pan so that it only hangs off on one side. Set the fish on the foil, skin side down.
Here’s the part where you can get creative. Sprinkle the top of the fish with the spices of your choice. We usually start with Old Bay and some dried shallot, then build up from there. Salmon is strongly-flavored on its own, so that might be enough, but we’ve also had good results with coriander and garam masala, a few different barbeque rubs, or thin slices of lemon. Don’t use salt or a spice mix containing salt: that sucks the moisture right out of the fish. Bleah!
Once your fish is well-decorated, fold the foil over the top and fold the edges together. Make sure you crimp them tightly together so there’s no way that steam can escape*.
* Assuming you’re not trying to make salmon jerky, that is. If you want dry, chewy salmon, leave a few openings around the edges of the foil.
Hopefully your oven heats faster than ours; we usually have the fish ready to go well before the oven is up to temperature. If yours is like ours, the time can profitably be spent on a side dish. Rice is a good choice.
Once the oven is hot enough and the fish is flavored and tightly sealed, put the fish in the oven and set the timer for ten minutes. Don’t worry that your fillets are too thick or thin. Only once in our years of cooking salmon this way has it come out underdone, and I can’t remember a case of it being overdone.
When the timer goes off, pull the fish out. Don’t open the foil yet. Let it rest for two or three minutes, then carefully* unfold the foil and serve.
* Very carefully. Hot steam will escape and parboiled fingers will ruin your enjoyment of the meal.