If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.
The trick to making perfect pan-fried salmon lies in (a) cooking the fillets skin side down on low heat in a covered pan; (b) not disturbing them while they cook; and (c) removing the pan from the flame before the salmon is completely cooked so that the residual heat in the pan finishes the job without drying out the flesh.
4 center-cut salmon fillets ( 8 oz each), skin on
½ cup homemade garlic oil (see recipe below)
2 tbsp each finely chopped fresh dill and fresh flat leaf parsley, mixed together
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup homemade garlic oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup Reisling or other fruity white wine
1 tsp corn starch mixed with the lemon juice
Let the fillets stand covered for half an hour to get close to room temperature.
Wipe the fillets dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper on both sides and then sprinkle the top of each fillet with ½ tsp. of the herb mixture. Pour the garlic oil into a large skillet on medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully place the fillets skin-side down and don’t touch them.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet and let cook for 8 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the covered skillet sit undisturbed for 8 more minutes to allow the residual heat and steam in the pan to finish cooking the salmon.
While the salmon finishes cooking, prepare the sauce: in a small saucepan on very low heat, whisk together the fresh garlic oil and the wine. Add the lemon juice and continue whisking as the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. Continue whisking for 2 more minutes, then remove from heat and whisk in the remaining chopped herbs. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully slide a spatula between the skin and the skillet to remove each fillet to a separate plate and drizzle with the herbed lemon sauce. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes (see recipe below) and a garden salad.
Homemade Garlic Oil
1 quart extra light olive oil
30 large cloves of garlic, whole and peeled
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp white pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Pour olive oil into a large casserole dish. Add the garlic cloves, salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Put lid on the dish and place in the oven for two hours. Remove from oven and carefully reserve the cloves using a slotted spoon. When the oil cools, return it to the olive oil jar and refrigerate. Refrigerate cloves in a tightly sealed container and use within 1 week.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
3- ½ lbs. russet potatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups half-and-half
12 oven roasted garlic cloves, mashed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Peel and dice potatoes, making sure all are relatively the same size. Place in a large saucepan, add the salt, and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to maintain a rolling boil. Cook until potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.
Heat the half-and-half and the garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain off the water. Mash and add the garlic-cream mixture and Parmesan; stir to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes so that mixture thickens and then serve.