Fish and I have not always been the best of friends, or really, from the perspective of the fish, we were better friends before I discovered how tasty they can be. What I mean to say is that throughout my childhood I had a mild phobia of seafood. For at least the first decade of my life the only seafood I ate was an occasional fish-stick, which was more of a ketchup delivery device than anything. Looking back, I’m sure that I was at least partially influenced by my mom’s distaste for the food group. Mom’s word was the voice of reason, always. From about age five to eight, my arguments went like this “my mom says _____”, no further explanation needed; so naturally her influence crept into my palate.
Now my mom’s not really a picky eater, I just chose to latch on to her dislikes rather than her raves (with the exception of marzipan, few people are more enamored with the sweet that we are). Luckily, sometime not too long ago I got past this, oddly enough with salmon, a fish that is unequivocally “fishy.” And like any young love, I fell hard.
Unlike many of its predecessors, this infatuation did not fizzle out, and since then I’ve been experimenting little by little, lamenting the years I missed out on slurping oysters, cracking crab, and nibbling on sashimi. While my new policy entails that I’ll try a bite of most things, I’m a bit more cautious when it comes to cooking fish at home, which is easily justified by the thought that not much needs to be done to make an exceptional piece of fish shine.
This philosophy plays well into my innate stubbornness; I justify my reluctance for change and experimentation by thinking that I may as well not mess with a good thing. My loyalty to the tried and true is both helpful and at the same time an unfortunate trait for someone who’s supposed to be testing recipes. On the upside, you can rest easily knowing that most anything endorsed here, is indeed quite tasty. So with that said, let me prod you in the right direction, which is to your local fishmonger to buy a nice piece of salmon, and make this. Delicious in the best way possible, it is relatively simple to prepare (making it a great weeknight meal), but appears much more complex, as though you slaved away in the kitchen for hours.
This is my go to method for cooking salmon; the texture is best described as luscious, and it’s hard to overcook, which is my number one fear when it comes to fish cookery. This is also easily made gluten-free, just make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce, most tamari (a type of soy sauce that’s generally made solely from soy beans vs soy and wheat in regular soy sauce) is, just make sure to look at the label. I used parchment paper to make the packages (this technique is referred to as cooking “en papillote”), this step is important as it allows the salmon and mushrooms to lightly steam in their juices.
Adapted, just barely, from Martha Stewart Living: March 2011
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups (4 oz) thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, feel free to use your favorite variety
2 salmon fillets, preferably wild (≈5 ounces each, 1 inch thick)
1 teaspoon toasted-sesame oil
½ teaspoon black sesame seeds
¾ cup (1 ounce) fresh pea shoots
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut two 12 by 15-inch pieces of parchment paper; fold each in half to make two 12 by 7 ½-inch pieces, making a sharp crease at the fold.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice and grated ginger; toss with the mushrooms. Divide mushrooms evenly between the two pieces of parchment, arranging the mixture on one side of the crease. Lay a salmon fillet on top of each bed of mushrooms; lightly sprinkle the salmon with ⅛ teaspoon salt and the sesame oil. Fold parchment over the ingredients and make overlapping pleats to seal.
Bake on one baking sheet for 10 to 11 minutes for medium-rare (I generally go with 10, but I like my fish less cooked than some) or 12 for medium. Unwrap; using a spatula, gently lay the contents of the packet on a plate and pour any residual liquid over. Sprinkle each fillet with sesame seeds and top with pea shoots.
Originally this made four servings, but more often than not I’m making this for one or two, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly. This can easily be doubled, even tripled, and since this is gently steamed in the parchment pouches (rather than needing more hands-on attention) it’s hardly any more work, just a bit more prep. I imagine it would work great for a dinner party as it can be assembled ahead of time, and just needs to be popped in the oven, then garnished before serving.
For a visual explanation of how to fold a parchment pouch, look here. I generally kind of wing it and it works out fine, but their method leaves you with a neater package. That being said, even if you parchment paper pouch turns out a bit more rustically styled than you’d hoped, it will do the job, as long as it’s tightly sealed.