• Servings: 1-2
  • Time: 0hr 20mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Pan Seared Salmon

One of our favorite restaurants in California is Don Giovanni, just north of Napa. Every time we visit the valley, we stop in to enjoy yet another delicious dish off the menu. Years ago, after sampling their salmon, I decided it was time to start making it at home.

Some like to sear in an open pan, some like to broil in the oven… I find that pan searing in a covered pan yields an unbeatable result. Crispy, yet tender and oh, so juicy. On the side, we like a little arugula salad, steamed vegetables, or Avocado Remoulade.

8 ounces of salmon fillet, divided into 4 ounce portions Place salmon, skin side down, on a cutting board. Using an extremely sharp, plain bladed knife, cut into portions. The skin is very tough; it may take a second stroke to complete the separation. Wipe off loose scales; pat dry. Serrated blades tear fish flesh. Loose scales are unappealing when the salmon is plated.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or Ghee
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
Lemon marinade: In a 1-cup tempered glass bowl melt butter/ghee on medium microwave power. Whisk in seasonings until uniform in color. Roll the fillets in the marinade, turning to evenly coat; gently pat into the flesh in with your fingers. Set aside. Ghee adds great flavor, has low PUFAs, sports a high smoke point (485°F), and leaves less residue than oil. Lemon juice brightens the dish (lime juice also works well).
Side of choice If the side of choice requires steaming or roasting, now is a good time to cut up the vegetables and start the steaming water or preheat the oven. Thinking through the timing helps sync the meal parts.
Preheat an empty 12-inch cast iron skillet (no substitutions) over medium heat until water droplets dance across the surface when flicked from your fingertips (3-5 minutes). Have a domed lid handy. Preheating discourages sticking and promotes fish searing (rapid browning). Cast iron is naturally non-stick and delivers a superior sear.
1 teaspoon Ghee Brush thinly in the pan. Promptly position fillets presentation side down (skin side up), at least an inch apart. Do not press or reposition. Promptly cover and sear until brown and crispy (3 minutes). Remove lid to turn fillets gently with tongs; promptly cover and sear the second side just until flesh is flaky (3-4 minutes). Desired internal temperature is a mere 125°F. For the presentation side to evenly sear, the fillet has to be raw and flexible, allowing it to lie flat in the pan. Covering holds in moisture and melts off the rendered fat that would otherwise accumulate on the sides.
Plate salmon with the side of choice. Any sauce should be served below the fillets, or to the side, to avoid softening the beautiful sear.

Replace the lemon marinade with 1 tablespoon melted butter/ghee, 1 teaspoon each honey and extra dry vermouth, 1/2 teaspoon each fine sea salt, roughly ground black pepper and paprika, 1/6 teaspoon each ground cumin and chili powder.