Let’s talk about writing recipes for a minute.
It’s easier than you might think. More than anything, it’s about knowing what tastes good to you, and what doesn’t. My favorite way to come up with recipes is to re-invent dishes I don’t like very much. For example, ever since I was little, I never really liked salmon. Cooked salmon, I mean. The raw stuff is, has always been, heavenly. It was something about the way the fatty bits would form strings of white film on the surface of the broiled meat, like membranous seafoam or toothpaste. It turned me off.
So when I ordered a salmon dish at an Italian restaurant in Evanston, I was a little out of my comfort zone. Pan-seared salmon with canellini beans, pancetta, and sundried tomatoes. I figured pan-fried was better than baked, and I would at least escape that white stringy stuff that grosses me out so much. The meal was good. Not great, but good. I thought I could do it better.
And I did. The secret, as always, is a nice hot skillet to so you can really sear the meat and the skin. (For you doubters out there, crispy salmon skin is proof that God exists.) Now this is is on the short list of my go-to recipes, a favorite of my parents and my seafood-phile friends. I encourage you to try this great one-plate meal. It’s a hit.
– Angela M.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Sauteed Spinach and Canellini Bean Stew
– 1 lb. wild or farm-raised salmon, cut into quarter-pound strips
– 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
– Salt and pepper
Canellini Bean Stew:
– 3 cans canellini beans (any white bean is O.K.)
– 3 strips pancetta or bacon, chopped
– 2 leeks, rinsed thoroughly and chopped (white and light green parts only)
– 1 large handful jullienned sundried tomatoes
– 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 cups white wine
– Juice of 1 lemon
– Several sprigs of fresh thyme
– Chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
– Extra virgin olive oil
– Red pepper flakes
– Salt and pepper
To begin the stew, render the fat out of chopped pancetta or bacon over medium-high heat. Once the meat becomes crispy, remove it onto a plate or bowl lined with a paper towel. Set aside. Add 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Sautee the chopped leeks for 5-6 minutes, until softened. Add canellini beans, sundried tomatoes, thyme, and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook down for about an hour, until the stew thickens and the beans have absorbed the flavor of the stock.
Meanwhile, season the salmon strips with salt, pepper, and thyme. If it was in the refrigerator, allow the salmon to sit until it reaches room temperature, about 10-15 minutes. Once the stew thickens, add 1 cup of white wine, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes to taste. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Allow to simmer until the wine is mostly cooked off, about 5 more minutes.
Soon after you add wine to the stew, you’ll want to cook the salmon. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Place salmon skin-side down and allow it to cook for 2 minutes. The oil will splatter and go a bit crazy, but this is normal. Do not move the salmon once you have placed it down. This will help form a crust. Flip the salmon, and allow it to cook for two minutes on the other side. Remove from heat. Given a medium to thick fillet, this should produce a nice medium to medium rare.
To serve, ladle some canellini bean stew into a large bowl or plate. I like to pile some sauteed spinach on top of the stew, and serve the salmon on top of that. Garnish with a slice of lemon and some chopped parsley. Enjoy!