Food column: Seared salmon with lemon-tarragon butter

Seared salmon with fresh vegetables — an ideal dish for spring.

Seared salmon with fresh vegetables — an ideal dish for spring.

Salmon is a heart-healthy fish that lends itself to many culinary uses. There is discussion as to the use of “farmed” salmon as a sustainable choice versus the wild variety, but the latter’s price often puts it out of reach. Whichever you choose, there are things you can do that will ensure a delicious result. One — use a cast iron skillet to sear the salmon, and two — don’t cook it too long! Salmon suffers a severe degradation in both taste and texture when overcooked. It’s a culinary crime!

The following recipe uses fresh spinach, but as spring approaches (ever so slowly) more local vegetables, like asparagus and peas, will become available. Some simple boiled new potatoes with butter and herbs, or a rice or quinoa pilaf would be a great accompaniment!

Seared salmon with lemon-tarragon butter

For the salmon:

1.5 to 2 pounds center cut salmon fillet — skin on, scales off, pin-bones removed, cut into four equal pieces.

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium shallot, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

The zest and the juice from one lemon

For the spinach:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound sliced mixed wild or domestic mushrooms, sliced

1 pound baby spinach

Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Season the salmon on all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and add the olive oil, heating until very nearly smoking.

Sear the salmon on all but the skin side of each fillet. Once the salmon hits the pan, leave it until there is a crispy brown crust, about two minutes, before turning it. Remove the salmon fillets to an oven-proof dish and set aside.

Reduce the heat to low and let the pan cool off a bit before adding the butter. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits in the pan as the butter melts. Add the shallots and sauté gently until they are fragrant and translucent. Add the lemon juice, zest and tarragon, cook for maybe a minute, then remove from the heat.

In another skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the mushrooms and sauté, adding a bit more oil if necessary, until softened. Add the spinach, tossing with with a wooden spoon, until just wilted.

Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

While the spinach is cooking, pop the skillet with the salmon into the hot oven for maybe five minutes, or until the salmon is just firm and heated through. Remember that the salmon will have continued to cook after coming out of the hot skillet, so now only has to be reheated.

Heat the serving plates in the oven for a minute or two, then gently re-heat the spinach and mushroom mixture, dividing it equally on the plates. Place the salmon fillets, skin side down, on the spinach mixture and pour the lemon-tarragon butter over each.