I was asked for some advice on fish, so here goes.
Before I get to the recipe – a simple favorite of mine – some tips on buying and storing fish. You should always strive to buy fish the day you’re going to cook it, and no more than one day ahead. Buy it at a reputable store with good turnover, where the fish is stored in front of you on ice and where you don’t actually smell fish at the counter. Don’t be afraid to ask to smell a piece of fish before it’s cut or before you buy it – if fish smells fishy, it has already started to go bad. The color of farmed fish can be affected by its feed, so color isn’t a great guide for buying fish, but the flesh of the fish should look firm and not soft or mushy. When you get it home, stash it in the coldest part of your fridge – usually the bottom rack, towards the rear – and if it’s not wrapped tightly, transfer it to a sealed ziploc bag or container. I always store my wrapped fish in one of these flexible ice packs, which won’t freeze the fish but will keep it extra-cold.
When buying salmon, the tail end of the fish is not lower quality but the flesh can lose its texture more easily, and the last inch or so of the tail is useless. Tail pieces also cook more quickly because they’re thin. This recipe is designed for cuts from the center of the fish. Be sure to run a hand along the fish to check for pinbones, which can be removed with good tweezers or a pair of (CLEAN) needlenose pliers.
Salmon with Tangerine-Cilantro Beurre Blanc
6 Tbsp tangerine juice (roughly the juice of one tangerine)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar (white balsamic worked)
1 Tbsp wine/cognac
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley)
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb salmon fillet, cut into individual servings (1/3 pound per serving is usually good)
Preheat the oven to 350.
1. In a saucier, combine the first four ingredients and simmer down until the liquid is almost gone. Add the cilantro and remove from the heat.
2. While the sauce is reducing, heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon’s flesh side with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sear it flesh side down in the pan in about 1 Tbsp of olive or any vegetable oil. After two to three minutes the flesh side should be nicely browned; flip it and sear two more minutes before transferring to the oven to finish cooking, about five more minutes, until the center of the fish is no longer translucent but is still paler and more shimmering than the exterior of the fish.
3. To finish the sauce, adding about 1 Tbsp at a time, whisk in the butter quickly, using the heat remaining in the pan to melt it. The goal is to create and maintain an emulsion, which will not be possible if the pan and sauce cool while you’re still mounting the butter. If the sauce becomes too cool, place it over another pan with an inch of simmering water in it to warm it slowly. Placing the saucier directly over a burner risks breaking the emulsion.
4. Season the sauce with salt/pepper and serve as soon as possible. You can keep the sauce for 10-15 minutes by sitting the pan over (but not touching) hot water.