Wednesday, September 7, 2011

salmon for dinner

Last week, we had friends from Germany over for dinner.

At first, I was planning to make them my summer 2011 standard: German zucchini soup and arepas.

But then I realized that they were in fact German and probably already knew their way around a zucchini soup. They were coming to see the west coast of British Columbia, Washington state and Oregon. There was only one thing to make them.


We have very good local salmon here. Scott and I eat it so often that we’ve almost stopped thinking about it as special, as “company” kind of food.

But luckily I remembered.

It’s taken a lot of experimenting – and some pretty darn good taste-testing along the way – but we do believe we have now found the best way to cook salmon.

It’s so simple it’s almost scandalous, but I swear we both like it better than the salmon we get at very good restaurants. Really. It. Is. That. Good.

Credits are due to three people:

1.     Our friend James in Kelowna for frying us some mighty good salmon last August
2.     A Vancouver hotel chef (whose name I cannot remember!) whose sugar-salt salmon rub idea I played on the radio last summer
3.     Mark Bittman, who suggested scattering salt on the pan

In the hopes that our favourite salmon – which also happens to be extremely easy – might become your favourite salmon, let me walk you through it.

Whenever you think of it – let’s say anywhere from 2 hours to 1 minute before you plan to eat dinner – make a rub.

Mix one part salt with two parts sugar. I usually do 1 tablespoon of salt to two tablespoons of sugar. (I have a bit left over, but it’s always better to have more rather than less rub.)

If your salmon is not already cut into nice, individual-sized filets, do that now.

Using your fingers, rub the rub into the salmon flesh, but not on the skin.

Put the salmon in a dish and let it stay cool in the fridge until you’re ready to fry it up.

Just before you’re ready to eat, set the pan on the stove to heat. Turn it up just beyond halfway on your heat gauge. On our stove, that’s 6.

Wait 10 minutes, so your pan can get good and hot.

Once it is indeed good and hot, sprinkle salt over the bottom to loosely cover.

Carefully, place your prepared salmon filets in the pan, skin side down. Cover.

Depending how thick your salmon is, open the lid and take a peak after 3 – 5 minutes. See how happy and plump it’s become! 

If it’s starting to look opaque, flip it over. (If your pan is at the ideal temperature, the salt should prevent it from sticking very much.)

Cook for 1 minute if you like your salmon medium-rare. If you like it cooked through, give it a tiny bit longer. (Be careful: salmon overcooks very quickly!)

You can serve the salmon with whatever you like. We are really into Mark Bittman’s lentils right now, although we use beluga lentils or lentils du puy instead of the green ones he calls for. We find beluga lentils and lentils du puy don’t take as long to cook and are more fun.

Eat your new favourite salmon! Serve it to guests!


  1. Love salmon - I always salt it overnight, wash off and leave for 3 days to develop, then grill, it tightens the flesh but sugar is intriguing...

  2. Thanks for the link to this recipe. I have forwarded it on to my hubby and we decided it would be dinner tomorrow!