Salmon is one of those foods that instantly transports me back home, to Maine where I grew up. I grew up eating mostly seafood, a benefit of both being upper middle class and living in a coastal town in New England.
I preferred shellfish mostly though. Clams, Mussels, Scallops, Lobster, Crab, etc. I never got excited by fish until I read Tom Colicchio’s recipe for pan seared sea bass in his cookbook “Think like a chef“.
As an aside, i highly recommend this book. It contains not only a ton of great recipes but also guides you through tons of techniques, braising, roasting, searing, making stocks and sauces. This book is a must have for any cooks collection.
Sea Bass? This is supposed to be about salmon.
I know, I know, but in that recipe Tom suggests that if you don’t want to use sea bass (for whatever reason) atlantic salmon is a good substitute. I’ve been making this recipe for the past 10 years and it never fails to amaze me with how simple and delicious it is.
It’s perfection. There are only a few ingredients, there isn’t an overly complicated technique to it. It’s just fish, oil, salt, pepper and butter. Butter. Just the flavor of it over salty, oceanic fish can transport me back in time to eating lobster or crab drenched in it.
This recipe may actually have been the recipe that got me interested in cooking.
So, here it is, a dish that reminds me of all the seafood of New England and was likely the catalyst for my interest in cooking.
The Perfect Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon
- 3/4 – 1lb of atlantic salmon, cut into individual portions
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2-3 tbsp grape seed oil
- 3-4 sprigs of thyme
- A saute pan
- yer mitts
Pat the salmon dry and then season both sides of the fish with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the saute pan on medium-high heat until it is almost smoking.
Place the fish in the pan, skin side down. The pan should sizzle when the fish skin makes contact. Once the fish is in the pan don’t touch it for six minutes.
After six minutes, take a look at one of the fillets. The skin should be crispy, almost like a cracker or chip. Once it’s crispy, flip the fish over and cook for another six minutes.
Before flipping the fish over, reduce the heat to medium low, add the butter and the sprigs of thyme. Flip the fish over and begin basting the fish with the butter. Don’t stop for 2-3 minutes.
Take the fish off the heat and serve immediately. A side of asparagus or roasted root vegetables goes really well with this.