Much as I love tilapia and bangus (milkfish), nothing compares with my unbridled devotion for salmon. Nothing even comes close. I eat salmon raw (sashimi), smoked, grilled, poached, broiled, boiled… I eat salmon fillets and steaks, the belly, the head… There just isn’t any part of this fish that I don’t like.
This is possibly the best (and, ironically, the simplest) salmon dish I have ever created. But, as simple as the recipe is, there three steps that can make or break the dish.
The first is drying the surface of the fish. Place between stacks of paper towels and squeeze lightly to press out excess moisture. If you don’t, when the fish hits the hot pan, that excess moisture will turn to steam which will prevent the surface to get seared.
The second is seasoning. Don’t rely on the sauce alone to flavor the fish. Rub salt and pepper generously on the fish then give it at least half an hour to soak up the seasoning. Salt will draw out more moisture so it’s a good idea to press the fish between stacks of paper towels again before you begin cooking.
Sear the salmon fillet on alll sides. And sear means sear, and not cook the fish to dryness. You want the every inch of the surface to be browned but the fish should be moist and just cooked through inside.
Note that my fillet was about two inches at the thickest part. The actual grilling time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your fillet. As a guide, keep the heat high to sear the fish but still allowing it to be moist at the center. The fish will finish cooking in residual heat after it is removed from the pan.
Pan-grilled salmon with lemon-butter-garlic sauce
- Make the sauce by stirring together the butter, lemon juice, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper.
- Let sit and allow the flavors to develop while you cook the fish.
- Rinse the salmon and press between stacks of paper towels.
- Rub generously with salt and pepper.
- Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
- Place the fish between stacks of paper towels once more and press lightly.
- Drizzle some olive oil over it, then use your fingers to spread the oil over every inch of the surface of the fish, including the skin.
- Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal).
- When the skillet is very hot, lay down the salmon, skin side up. Grill over high heat for two minutes.
- Flip and grill for a minute and a half.
- If you want a perfectly even crisp and golden crust for your fillet, grill the fish sideways too.
- Transfer the fish to a plate.
- Spoon the sauce on and around the salmon.
- Top with sliced scallions and sprinkle with toasted garlic bits.