Serve Salmon with Pepperoncini Lemon Sauce anytime
My family has always served whole baked fillets slathered with some kind of butter sauce. But this year I’m moving in a new direction: salmon fillets with crispy skin and a Greekish sauce. I was inspired by the crispy-skin salmon that’s become a mainstay on restaurant menus in recent years. The contrast of the fish’s crisp and flavourful skin with its moist and flavourful flesh is a knockout.
But it never occurred to me to attempt it at home until now. It turns out that it’s really quite simple. You just need to make sure the skin is very dry before you cook it. Not only must it be patted down with paper towels, it also has to be scraped repeatedly with a knife to remove any excess moisture. Then all you need is a hot skillet and some oil with a high smoke point. (While the salmon’s cooking, you’ll have to press it down frequently with a spatula to prevent the skin from buckling and shrinking.)
The tart sauce is a snap. It’s a mix - half-yogurt and half-mayonnaise flavoured with lemon, dill, garlic and pepperoncini. (The last-named ingredients are those Tuscan pickled peppers often used to enliven Greek salads with a tiny bit of heat.) The sauce’s tartness provides a welcome contrast to the fish’s richness.
Truthfully, now that I know this easy and effective technique, it’s how I’m always going to cook salmon - even when it’s not a holiday.
SALMON WITH CRISPY SKIN AND PEPPERONCINI LEMON SAUCE
Start to finish: 40 minutes Servings: 4
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced seeded pepperoncini
1 tablespoon liquid from the pepperoncini jar
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and black pepper
Four 6-ounce salmon fillets with the skin
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil with a high smoke point
In a bowl combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, minced pepperoncini and pepperoncini liquid, lemon juice, garlic and dill; add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Pat the fish skin very dry. Scrape the skin with a large knife, at a perpendicular angle, 8 to 10 times to remove any excess moisture, wiping the knife clean each time. In a large ovenproof skillet heat the oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add the salmon fillets, skin side down. Immediately press down evenly on the top of each fillet to keep the skin from buckling up. Cook the salmon, pressing down frequently, for 4 minutes or until you can see that the skin is getting crispy and the flesh has lightened about 1/3 - one-half of the way up the side. Season the flesh with salt and pepper, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for another 4 to 6 minutes or until the salmon is cooked to the desired degree of doneness.
Transfer to plates, skin side up, and top each portion with some of the sauce.
Nutritional information: 446 calories; 251 calories from fat; 28 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 128 mg cholesterol; 349 mg sodium; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 45 g protein.
This May 30, 2017 photo shows salmon with crispy skin and pepperoncini lemon sauce in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Sara Moulton. (Sara Moulton via AP)