Wild Wolfram’s Anytime Salmon Recipe

Olive oil or butter? To flip or not to flip? When is it done? Stovetop or Oven? Fresh or frozen? Wild or cultivated? What seasonings can be used? These questions and more are all addressed here.

Firstly, you’ve got to get some salmon. The fresher the salmon, the better, so I prefer shopping for fresh salmon on the same day I cook it. Estimate that folks will like at least a ¼ pound serving, and when you cook it right, don’t be surprised if they gobble up a half-pound each. 

It won’t take long for fresh salmon to get gamey in your fridge, so if you don’t have the time to shop for fresh salmon, you can get some pretty decent frozen salmon fillets at Costco and keep them in your fridge – they are great to have in a pinch (just leave the frozen filets out for at least a few hours before cooking).

Usually, when I make salmon, I am almost done cooking my veggies or making a salad. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted when cooking salmon…it doesn’t take long to cook, and overcooked salmon is a crying shame. It is good to get the salmon in a hot pan or preheated oven at a high temperature and then lower the temperature while you hover close by.

Cultivated salmon is potentially higher in omega 6s, so wild-caught is better in terms of getting higher omega 3s. But, I will admit, I like pretty much all salmon, and don’t get too hung up on this concern, albeit a valid one.

My favorite stovetop solution is a cast iron pan, well season, and I cook in either butter or olive oil and sometimes both. If you cook in a coated non-stick pan, watch the temperature, and the thicker the pan the better because it is easy to burn the oil and the salmon that does not end well. On the stovetop, I heat the pan up hot, throw the salmon in, turn down the heat, and cover. This keeps the moisture in, and yes, I like to flip my salmon to grill it on both sides, but it isn’t necessary if you monitor temperature right, and I do this right at the end, often with the heat already turned off. I don’t want to suggest a time, because this is highly variable depending on what type of stove you are using, the size of the filet, etc. This is why you have to hover. From time to time, I lift the salmon from the bottom, and then if see if it breaks – it should be flaky, and easy to separate – too raw and it won’t come apart – too cooked, the same issue. Truly fresh salmon is good from sashimi stage (raw) all the way to “¾” cooked” but I think it is just sad when it is completely cooked and dry inside. Different strokes for different folks as they say.

If you cook it in the oven, heat the oven to 500 degrees and then pop the salmon in a glass dish that is well oiled with olive oil (butter will burn in the oven) then drop the temp down to 325. I will often cover the salmon in the oven too, and have some cast iron pans with lids that are great for putting in the oven too. This method can work on the barbeque too.

As far as seasonings go, my favorite is just salt and pepper. If I’m feeling sassy, I cut some razor-thin slices of lemon and layer them on top of the salmon. This presents well and works best with the baked version, I think. If the salmon is fresh, just let it shine with its own deliciousness. Use good olive oil or fresh butter. But when my salmon has been stuck in the fridge for a couple of days or is frozen, I bring out the big guns to cover the slight gaminess that starts to emerge. My favorite off-the-shelf seasoning is Oakland Dust Seafood Rub, made in the San Francisco Bay Area, and available on Amazon.com. It has smoked paprika, turmeric, garlic, salt, lemon peel, and spices including chili pepper.

Timing is everything. Salmon should come out hot off the stove or out of the oven, and not be allowed to get cold. I have all the fixins, veggies or salad ready to go and boom out to the table asap. Trust me, don’t let your salmon languish. Tell your family or guests in advance you are serving and have them ready at their places for your perfect salmon. Tell them if they don’t put away their cell phones and other devices, next time you will be serving frozen tilapia from Costco.

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