Anyone can cook a fish—but not everyone can cook a fish well.
And because fish cooks so quickly, it is easy to go from well-cooked—moist and tender—to overcooked, dry, and tough. The difference is mere minutes.
I myself am guilty of ruining a few filets in my quest for culinary excellence mediocrity.
And for a long time, I avoided cooking fish entirely, paralyzed by fear. Because ruining fish is an expensive lesson, and one I was not eager to attempt.
My Uncle Bert is one of the few people I know who has mastered the art of cooking fish. He does it so well, in fact, that he has no qualms about cooking it for company (there is one swordfish dish in particular that I remember being especially delicious).
But Uncle Bert has a secret. Or rather, secrets.
The cookbook Seafood Secrets, that is (out of Mystic Connecticut, btw, of Julia Roberts Mystic Pizza fame).
And so, when I decided it was time for me to stop being afraid of cooking fish, I requested my own copy of Seafood Secrets for Christmas one year.
There were hundreds of delicious-sounding recipes in there, but what I was really looking for was an easy, foolproof way to cook fish filets—a recipe I could adapt to different types of fish and adjust with different seasonings.
What I found, finally, was a common theme in several recipes: place the filet in a baking dish; add equal parts white wine and water to halfway up the fish; coat top of fish with some type of fat (oil, butter, mayo) and seasonings (salt & pepper, herbs, cheese, bread crumbs, etc.) and bake at 425° (or maybe it was 400°) for (um, I’m drawing a blank here…12-15 minutes, maybe?)…or until done.
This became my ‘basic’ recipe, one that I wrote down in the back of the cookbook for easy reference.
Unfortunately, however, Seafood Secrets is not one of the cookbooks that has migrated over to My Guy’s house, and I did not realize this until I had already unwrapped the salmon and decided to cook it.
Not a problem, I thought, I’ll use Google.
Which proved to be no help. Apparently no one posts recipes from Mystic Seafood Secrets because I guess they’re all too busy—I don’t know—eating and/or watching Mystic Pizza, or out on a sailboat.
It did, somehow, point me towards this recipe which seemed like a good idea, especially since the salmon was already at room temperature and I needed to do something with it, and soon.
So I sprinkled the filets with thyme, gave them a schmear of mustard, some salt and pepper and parmesan and cooked them in a skillet with butter.
I do not regret it.
I did leave the pan on the burner slightly longer than the recipe suggests, simply because I did want my fish to be cooked all the way through, and the original recipe says the center will remain raw. I did not want that, not at all.
After all is said and done, this was easy, and quick, and fairly foolproof. And since it cooks so quickly, it will help with your meal-planning-timing, if you’re into that sort of thing—have all your other side dishes cooked and ready, and do the fish last.Simple 3-Minute Salmon Recipe adapted from this 3-4 salmon filets (or as many as you want to cook) herbs of your choice (I used dried thyme) salt and pepper honey mustard 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Rinse the salmon filets and pat dry. Let come to room temperature. Sprinkle filets liberally with dried thyme, salt and pepper. Spread honey mustard evenly over top, using about 2-3 teaspoons of honey mustard per filet. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired (or crushed walnuts would also be good).
In a skillet, heat olive oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add filets, skin-side up. Fry for 3 minutes exactly, then flip. Cover pan with a lid, and turn off the heat to the burner but leave the pan on the burner for one minute more. [Or if you have a gas stove, leave the burner on and cook for one minute]. Remove pan from the burner and let stand at least 3 minutes, covered, before serving.