Many people love salmon but are afraid to cook it at home. Try this easy, Asian-inspired recipe with tips and photos on preparation to make your salmon dinner a success. Serve it warm over asparagus spears or chilled over salad greens. This black and white sesame salmon could become one of your go-to recipes for a quick weeknight meal or easy entertaining.
For the Love of Salmon
There’s so much to love about salmon. With it’s beautiful orange color, salmon is a delight to the eye. But more than just pretty, it’s also highly nutritious; a health-promoting choice because of Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s on all of the “good for you” lists like this one in the Nutrition Action health letter.
First, you’ve got to seek out good quality fish. Although many stores in our area offer salmon, I drive a little further and pay a little more to get what I know is quality. The best choice continues to be fresh, wild King salmon from Alaska or California.
When buying salmon, it should be moist, firm and have an ocean smell. The flesh should not be coming apart or tearing. It should not smell fishy or strong. In hot weather, I’ll ask the fish counter to package my salmon in a small bag of ice to transport it home and keep it fresh.
For advice on choosing salmon at the market, check out this link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Print off their pocket guide to carry with you or download the applet to your smart phone.
How to Prep Salmon
To remove the skin you will need a very sharp, thin, flexible knife (a filet knife or boning knife). Hold the edge of the salmon skin flat on your cutting board and slide your knife between the skin and flesh, angling the knife blade down just slightly. Slice completely under the flesh while holding the skin tight. It should come off in one clean piece. Turn the salmon over and discard the skin.
Next, trim off any of the dark purple flesh. This is the bloodline and it can be very strong in flavor. Some people don’t mind it. I prefer to trim it off. Be careful to trim just the dark purple areas so you don’t waste any of the salmon. Turn the filet over and portion into two pieces, either across the width or length depending on what you have. Run your fingers over the filet sides for pin bones. Use tweezers or small pliers to remove them.
Discard the bloodline, or if you have pets, cook it briefly for them in a non-stick pan or in the microwave. They’ll love it as a healthy treat mixed into their food.
When your salmon filets are trimmed and ready, turn them over and brush with a few drops of sesame or coconut oil. Place filets presentation side (top side) down on a plate of the mixed sesame seeds and press to coat. Turn filets over and set aside to cook.
Sear the Salmon
Heat a teaspoon or two of sesame or coconut oil in non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper (I use Szechuan salt and pepper blend from Penzeys).
Carefully place filets in the pan seed side down. Don’t move the filets until a crust forms and the sesame seeds are looking golden. Carefully turn the filets over, turn down the heat to low, cover, and allow the salmon to finish cooking until it’s barely translucent in the center.
Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your salmon filets so it’s impossible to give an exact time. It should be around 135 to 145 degrees if you have a digital thermometer, depending on how you like your salmon. Experience will tell you.
Helpful links, information and tools:
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Pocket Guides for the seafood to buy or avoid and why
- All About Salmon, Nutrition and Health Benefits, from About.com
- If you don’t have one, you’ll need a good basic nonstick pan. I use the Scanpan CTX which you can buy at cooking stores or via my Amazon Affiliate link. Another good non-stick pan I’ve been cooking with lately is from GreenPan. It’s less expensive than the Scanpan.
- After experimenting with brands of coconut oil, my favorite is Dr. Bronner’s white label, unrefined and light tasting
This recipe was inspired by one of my chef-buddies, Rachelle Boucher. When it’s in season, my favorite salmon is wild king. Sesame seeds can be found in the Asian aisle of your grocer or an Asian market. Store sesame seeds in the refrigerator as they have a high oil content and can go rancid if not stored properly. Serve salmon warm on roast or grilled asparagus spears or cool on a bed of baby spinach leaves with orange segments and a sesame-orange vinaigrette.
- 4 – 6 ounce salmon fillets (skin yourself or have the seafood counter do it for you)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Salt & pepper to taste (I use Penzey’s Szechuan Pepper Salt blend)
- 2 teaspoons sesame or coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives (optional garnish)
- Needle nose pliers or tweezers (to remove any salmon pin bones)
- Thin, sharp, flexible knife like a filet knife (if you are going to skin the salmon yourself)
- 10″ – 12″ Non-stick pan
- If the salmon is refrigerated, allow it to sit on the counter about 30-60 minutes to get the chill off.
- Place salmon skin side down on a cutting board. With a thin, sharp knife (filet knife if you have one), slip the knife blade between the skin and salmon flesh with the blade facing away from you. Hold the edge of the skin on the board tightly and with your knife blade angles slightly down, slice between the skin and fish all the way to the end. Remove the skin completely. You should have a clean piece of skin to discard with little salmon attached.
- Next, turn salmon over with the bottom up. Carefully trim any dark purple bloodline. Gently run your fingers along the sides of the filets looking for pin bones. Remove bones with pliers or tweezers. With rounded side up, season salmon with salt and pepper blend.
- Mix sesame seeds and place on a small flat plate. Drizzle a few drops of oil on each salmon filet and rub to coat the surface of the fish. Place salmon rounded side down in the sesame seeds and press gently to adhere. Remove salmon filets to a clean plate or waxed paper until ready to cook. Discard any leftover sesame seeds from the plate, as they have touched raw fish and cannot be saved.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat with about 2 teaspoons of oil. When hot, place salmon filets sesame side down. Cook until sesame seeds are golden and a crust has formed. Gently turn the salmon over and turn heat to low. Cook salmon just a few minutes longer. It will be firm to the touch but until still a little translucent in the center. Timing will depend on the thickness of your filets, but it doesn’t take long. My 1″ thick filets were done in about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped chives for garnish if desired.