Salmon and Pasta: So Happy Together
Pogi helped with dinner the other night, by coming in to see if we needed any help.
We told him that we got this. Besides, he only likes tuna and cat food.
And marshmallows; actually, he doesn’t really eat the marshmallow–he pulls it out of the bag and tosses it around for a while. Well done cat. Well done.
Pogi is a true tuna fan. I like tuna as well–in a can or fresh–its’ all good. He won’t eat salmon, which is fine by me, because salmon is delicious–more for me. We choose to get our omega-3s in our own way. He likes his omegas it straight out of the can, no salt needed. Lauren and I prefer something a little more sophisticated.
Honey-Lemon Salmon with Bacon Panna Pasta
Cooking fish is tricky. Much like chicken, fish will easily dry out if you overcook it. The secret to cooking flaky, moist fish? Only cook one side. If you cook one side of the fish on medium-low heat, you’ll end up with a lightly crusted bottom and a buttery soft top. Fish cooks quickly enough that you won’t burn the bottom before the heat cooks the rest of the fish all the way through. Admittedly, sometimes this will leave a slightly underdone side, which may not be the preferred texture for everyone. Lauren doesn’t like raw fish, and if you only cook one side, you can see how this could be a dilemma. The solution? Carefully flip the fish over when it’s nearing completion and you won’t have to worry about any raw fishy textures or flavors.
I also find that fish is the perfect protein to learn how to tell whether or not your meat is done by using the tip of your finger. Find the thickest part of the fish, generally the center, and push down with the tip of your index finger. It should offer some resistance with a slight springiness. This will work for most proteins, especially most cuts of steak, but I would avoid using this method with very thin cuts of meat–it just doesn’t work the same. If you don’t want to use the 1-side method for fish, cook both sides and test the readiness with the tip of your finger: mild resistance, slight spring. Or just poach your fish in clarified butter. You can’t go wrong with butter.
This recipe will prepare two 6oz salmon fillets
2 Tblspn Honey
3 Tblspn Unsalted Butter
1 Tblspn Brown Sugar
2 Tspn Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)
1 Tspn Dijon Mustard
Zest from 1 lemon
Prepare a medium frying pan on medium-high heat. Melt the butter and brown sugar. Add honey, lemon juice, and zest. Reduce to medium-low heat. Whisk in the mustard once the all the ingredients have melted together. Salt both sides of the salmon fillets generously and then place side-by-side in your prepared frying pan. Let them cook for 6-7 minutes on one side over medium-low heat. Depending on the thickness of your fillets, adjust the cooking time as required. While the fillets are cooking, with a small spoon ladle small amounts of the honey-lemon-butter over the top of the salmon (this will also aid in the cooking process). You won’t need to cook both sides of the fish as I previously stated, but if you’d like, flip the fillet over for 30 seconds to a minute to complete the cooking process. Set them aside on wax paper and briefly let them rest.
Bacon Panna Pasta:
Whenever I prepare a basic cream sauce for pasta, say a traditional Italian panna sauce (alfredo sauce in the US), I almost always start with butter and shallots or garlic. For this particular pasta, I first start with bacon fat and work from there. Who would argue with that? Your waistline maybe, but you can’t please everyone.
4 Strips thick-cut bacon, cut into thin strips (traditional or smoked, doesn’t matter)
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Pint Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Pasta of your choice (recommend a long pasta such as spaghetti or fettucine)
In a medium saucepan, cook bacon strips over medium heat. When the bacon begins to shrink and crisp, remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to absorb grease. You should be left with bacon fat in your saucepan. Reduce the bacon fat by half, reduce your heat to med-low, and add the minced garlic. Work quickly, as you don’t want to burn your garlic (10-15 seconds over med-low heat). Add the heavy cream and whisk to incorporate the bacon fat. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, whisking once in between. Add a dash of salt and pepper, then add the parmiggiano. Whisk until you are left with a smooth texture. Add salt to taste (generally, I add a little more salt when I’m making a more traditional panna sauce, but since this one uses bacon fat, which is already salty, you shouldn’t need much more, if any).
Cook the pasta according to the package directions with plenty of salt in your pasta water (Thomas Keller says it should be as salty as the ocean). For this meal, I used spaghetti (number 5 thickness, but 3 or 7 is fine as well). When done, drain the pasta water, but don’t rinse your pasta. Mix 3/4 of the sauce with the pasta.
I prefer pasta bowls whenever we eat pasta, but a flat plate is fine here, especially since this sauce is not particularly runny. Using tongs, grab a portion amount of one end of the pasta and twist onto the plate, so that you create a small mound of pasta in the center of the plate or bowl. Spoon over some extra sauce. Place one salmon fillet directly over the center of the pasta. Garnish with parsley and bacon crisps. If you’d like, top your salmon with a slice of lemon.