What’s for dinner? Pecan-crusted salmon

Photo by Kathryn Jones

Photo by Kathryn Jones

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Salmon is my favorite fish for its succulent texture, lovely color and, of course, taste. Some people tell me they don’t like salmon because it tastes too “fishy.” But fresh salmon should not smell or taste overpoweringly fishy.

That hold-your-nose smell is a sign that the fish isn’t fresh. Don’t buy those pre-packaged, frozen fillets or steaks, either. Once you defrost them, they will smell up your kitchen.

The key, then, is to buy salmon that’s as fresh as possible and cook it as soon as you can. Locally, I find that H.E.B. and Kroger in Granbury have the best quality salmon. Buy wild caught if you can; it has more of the healthy oils than farm-raised salmon and you can be sure that you’re getting more natural fish, not fish raised on grain.

It’s kind of like the difference between grass-fed beef and beef from cattle that’s been taken to a feedlot and fattened up to produce marbled meat. I’d rather eat the more natural meat.

Once you start with the freshest fish you can, you actually have to do less to it. Salmon tastes great grilled or sautéed in a pan with nothing more than fresh cracked pepper and olive oil. But sometimes I like to make a light sauce and perhaps a coating. I’ve also baked salmon wrapped in slices of potatoes that looked like “scales.”

For a meal at home for two, though, that’s a lot of trouble. Then I came across this recipe, Alaska salmon bake with pecan crunch coating, from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. It’s a snap to make, looks impressive enough to serve company and makes an everyday meal seem extra special. The mustard-honey mixture used to make the chopped pecans stick to the fish adds a piquant base for the nutty crust.

I serve the salmon with roasted red potatoes sprinkled with a bit of rosemary and wedges of lemon. When I made this dish last night I happened to have in the refrigerator the last of the Napa cabbage we grew in our fall garden, so I sliced the leaves and mounded them as a bed for the salmon, then drizzled some of the extra mustard-honey mixture on it like a dressing.

We had no leftovers. We even polished off the crunchy salmon skin, much to our dog Tru’s disappointment.

 

 Alaska Salmon Bake with Pecan Crunch Coating

(serves 4)

2 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard

2 Tbs. melted butter

4 tsp. honey

¼ cup fresh bread crumbs (canned variety is fine if you don’t want to make your own)

¼ cup finely chopped pecans

2 tsp. chopped parsley

4 (4 to 6 ounces each) salmon fillets

Salt and black pepper

Lemon wedges

Mix together the mustard, butter and honey in a small bowl; set aside. Combine bread crumbs, pecans and parsley; set aside. Season each salmon fillet with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet or broiling pan. Brush each fillet with the mustard-honey mixture. Pat top of each fillet with bread crumb-pecan mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes per inch of thickness or until salmon just flakes when tested with a fork. We like our salmon medium rare in the center, so we cook it just until the pecans are crunchy.

Serve with lemon wedges.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 327 calories, 19 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 87 milligrams cholesterol, 351 milligrams sodium; 53 percent of calories from fat.

 

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