The story behind salmon goes like this, in my younger whooper snapper years I hated salmon. In fact I hated most fish unless it was fried mullet. Don’t judge me I’m from Pensacola.
Anyway, a friend of mine, Kevin, told me I should just give salmon a chance. He told me to drench the thing in mayonnaise and lemon pepper and then grill it. I did and I haven’t looked back since.
Now it’s my most favorite fish. I still love fried mullet don’t get me wrong, but salmon seems to be more in tune with my “adulting” self. Who am I kidding, I don’t adult.
Cooking in a cast iron skillet, with out the butter, was my go-to way for a few years now. Make the skin crispy and what have you. But since I can sous vide at home, I thought I would try my hand at that. It’s pretty freakin’ rockin’ y’all!
Not the quickest method – I mean, salmon is pretty quick in a skillet or on a grill. I realize that. But there is a moistness and tenderness to sous vide salmon that is worth the time. Plus, it’s all pretty much passive time. You can sit with a
bottle glass of wine or two while it works its magic.
Butternut Chardonnay pairs great with this, by the way, or Graywacke.
What is sous vide? Did I hear someone in the audience ask that?
Well, very simply, it’s food “under vacuum”. It’s food, usually vacuum sealed, though you can use a zip top bag and get as much air out as you can, cooked in temperature controlled water. Sounds like boiling? Nope. Sounds like poaching? Nope. Because it’s controlled temperature, you will never have an overdone steak, or fish, or asparagus, or pork. You want medium salmon? You will get that because the water remains at that temperature always.
You can season the food before you seal it. Put spices, herbs, butter, garlic, whatever. Because it’s sealed in the bag, no juices can come out and all that goodness cooks together without losing any flavor. It all makes for tender, moist, and perfect food.
So now that we all know what’s going on here, let me tell and show you what’s up.
Tender sous vide salmon, crispy skin, with a very simple, three ingredient lemon dill sauce.
- 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
- 4 cups cool water
- 8 ounces creme fraiche 1 small container
- 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped or more to your liking
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
First thing is set up your water and sous vide machine. Set the temperature to 120-135°. If you want to crisp your skin up, set it to 120°. It’ll give you some temperature space to get it crisped without overcooking the fish. If you’re not going that route, set to 135°.
Next, we’re gonna brine the fish for 30 minutes. Heat up about 1/3 cup of your 4 cups of water and mix with the salt. Once dissolved, place it in a glass pan with the remaining 4 cups of cool water and the olive oil. If the water is not cool, just toss in a few ice cubes. Place the fish in the brine and let it hang out in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Time to whip up the lemon dill sauce. Empty the creme fraiche into a bowl or container. Zest the entire lemon and toss it in, along with the chopped dill. Add the juice from the entire lemon. Combine and chill.
After the fish has hung about in the brine for 30 minutes and you’ve reached your machine has gotten the water to your temperature setting, remove the fish from the brine. It’s time to seal it up. At this point, if you want to add some garlic slices or lemon slices or whatever, you can. If using a vacuum sealer, seal it up. If using zip top bags, try to get as much air out as you can. Pop in the water for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, start getting your skillet screaming hot with some butter or oil. While that’s getting hot, remove your fish. Pat dry with paper towels to ensure a good sear. When the pan is hot, place the fish in the skillet skin side down until crispy. It’ll take a moment and you’ll start to see white “coagulation” on the top of the fish. You’re fine. Remove the fish from the pan and top with the lemon dill sauce. Enjoy!
I just wanted to say a couple of things about this. One, if you’re gonna use regular table salt in the brine, decrease it by 1/3. It’s saltier than kosher or sea salt, so you might get too much salt for your liking and ruin a beautiful piece of fish.
Two, not everyone likes the crispy skin, I get that. My wife says the crispy skin tastes like roasted marshmallow. I’m not sure about that, but it’s delicious. If you’re not gonna crisp the skin up but still want it to look more attractive, go ahead and throw some seasoning on it and put it in a hot skillet just for a few moments to make it look better.
Oh, and of course, if you have the Instant Pot Ultra or Smart, you can always use it if you don’t have a sous vide stick. Just click on the ultra setting, adjust the temperature, and make sure you choose no pressure. When it comes to temperature, toss your fish in for 20 minutes.