Cooking on deadline: Salmon with tarragon vinaigrette

Credit: Mia

Credit: Mia

A good piece of fish needs very little to make it perfect. Here, the brisk, anisey-tangy flavor of tarragon vinaigrette is a wonderful complement to the lushness of salmon filets.

If you start with excellent salmon and super-fresh herbs, and don't overcook the fish, you cannot mess this up. It's a less-is-more dish.

The mix of orange and lemon juices in the vinaigrette gives provides a nice balance of sweetness and tanginess. If you are in possession of a Meyer lemon, you could use 3 tablespoons of that juice in place of the mix, and get similar results. Not exactly the same, but something else wonderful.

I love starting fish in a pan (make sure your fish is fairly thick, about 1-inch or even thicker) and then transferring it to a stove to finish cooking. Here are the three main reasons why:

1) You can use the oven to cook something else to go with the fish, whether it's roasted potatoes or other vegetables.

2) If you are cooking the fish with the skin on, you can get that pan screaming hot before you add the fish, and when the skin hits the pan it starts to crisp up immediately. It then stays crisp and delicious and great to eat. Soft fish skin: not good. Crisp fish skin: a fabulous counterpoint to a well-cooked, soft, delicate fish.

3) Perhaps best of all: You don't have to flip the fish, which even for the most confident and experienced cooks doesn't always end well.

Salmon is available everywhere because it's so good and so popular. If you can get wild Alaskan salmon, do yourself (and the environment) a favor and buy it. It has a more pronounced flavor than farm-raised does, so you're getting the full salmon experience. And because the Alaskan seafood folks are vigilant about sustainability and harvesting practices, you know you're eating salmon that has no growth hormones, artificial coloring, preservatives or added stuff that you might be wondering about in fish.

Serve this (maybe for Valentine's Day?) with rice and a green salad, or a whole-grain salad mixed with some fresh or roasted vegetables.



Serves 4

Start to finish: 25 minutes

 For the Salmon: 

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing

4 (6-ounce) fillets of salmon, 1-inch thick, skin on if desired

Salt and pepper for tasting

 For the Tarragon Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves

2 tablespoons minced shallots

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Heat a heavy, ovenproof skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Brush some olive oil over each piece of salmon, and season with salt and pepper. Add the salmon to the pan, skin side down (if relevant). Allow to sear, without moving, in the pan for about 3 minutes. Transfer to the oven and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until done to your liking.

While the salmon is cooking, in a small container combine the ¼ cup olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, tarragon, shallots, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Shake to combine.

Transfer the fish to a serving platter or individual plates. Shake the vinaigrette to remix it, and then pour it over the fish. Serve hot or warm.

 Nutrition per serving: 285 calories; 128 calories from fat; 14 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 109 mg cholesterol; 605 mg sodium; 2 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 37 g protein

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