[Nate sez]: I've encountered scores of the scarred and traumatized who flee at the sight of fish. I'll grin and inform my guests that they will be dining on an array of formerly finned creatures and I all I get in return are gasps of horror, uneasy looks, and drops of sweat dripping down foreheads.
Why does everyone seem to have an uncle that loved forcing twice-killed fish down their nieces' and nephews' throats? Am I responsible for showing people that fish is, like, really fucking good?
Now I'm sure a great deal of you who would bother to read this unpredictable mess Ben and I call a blog are already hip to the fact that fish, whether fatty or slim, small or large, fresh or frozen, DOA or canned is a beautiful thing. you can grill it, steam it, poach it, bake it, broil it, look at it, play with it, make funny faces at, or even just shove it in your gaping maw raw...or at least I know I like to do that.
But really, the most well-liked and easy to procure and prepare fish is Salmon. If you follow these five steps, I can almost guarantee that you will be shocked and awed by the sheer pleasure of it's juicy, fatty, delicious, healthy, salty, nutritiousliciousness.
#1. Don't spend a lot. I buy farmed, not that red, raised in squalid conditions Salmon that costs somewhere in the 'hood of 5-7 bucks a pound. What you want is marbled fish - look at that picture - all that white stuff is fish fat, that great shit your doctor's been trying to get you to eat. It also keeps the muscle fibers separate and lubed up so it turns out juicy and delicious. Make sure you buy your fish with skin on too.
#2. Crank your oven. Turn your oven onto 500 degrees F. And preheat it so you're fish hits the heat hard.
#3. Smell that Salmon! If your fish smells (and sometimes it does, though if you bought it the day you're cooking it, it probably won't) rinse it in the sink. "What!" you exclaim, "You want me to touch that thing, and like, get my hands on it?" Yeah, I do. And you're going to be rubbing stuff all over it soon so get over it already!
#4. Seasoning. Take a cookie sheet, lay some foil down and cover it up. Throw a bit of oil on there and rub with your dirty hand. Now take the Salmon and slap it down on the sheet. Put a bit of oil on the flesh and a lot of Kosher salt and pepper on there (NO IODIZED SALT) - just like a steak. Now rub it gently and whisper sweet nothings to your meat.
#5. Whacking. Put the freaking thing in the hot as hell oven. AND READ CAREFULLY...There is no such thing as an exact time your Salmon will take. Depending on the size, anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes. The thicker and bigger, the longer. You should poke your salmon to see if it's done. It is getting near done when the thick area of the flesh feels firmer than it did before you put it in - it should have a little give, but not too much. An over done piece feels like a clenched muscle. Even if you think it's a little underdone, take it out of the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes with some foil gently placed over it.
NOTE: You will not die from undercooked salmon. In fact, you might even like it. As time goes on, you will learn how to judge the done-ness by experience. This is how good cooks are made.
[Ben sez]: The great thing about Salmon is that it goes well with so many wines, red or white. One thing remains constant: you want a wine that is fruity and juicy, most certainly not that dry, and is probably closer to a "drinking" wine than a "food" wine (meaning something that sucks unless you eat something with it). I suggest a light, cheap Pays d'Oc Pinot Noir like French Rabbit (in a box!?), or a Vouvray.
Vouvray is one of my favorite wines - it comes from the Loire Valley of France and is made from mostly Chenin Blanc. If you've had POS, way too dry, 16% Chenin Blancs from Aussieland and South Africa, you wouldn't even recognize Vouvray. The type I like is off-dry, which means it's not dry, but it isn't perceptibly sweet either. Ask your wine merchant for an inexpensive, off-dry Vouvray. It has strong notes of pears and apples, an understated minerality to provide structure, and is arguably one of the most agreeable wines around.
I haven't had any this year yet, so I can't really tell you what's good right now. Just ask your damn wine people. It is their job to know after all...