My family is generally low maintenance when it comes to what they will eat. They each have favorites that seem to change without warning. My oldest, Tommy’s, favorite meal can fluctuate between osso bucco, and a Philly cheesesteak. Sam, my youngest, likes a good lobster roll, but can be just as satisfied with a slice of pizza, and as for my lovely wife Kristin, she is my biggest fan. Whether I put together a quick chicken parm, or smoke a beef tenderloin, she, better than the rest of the family, has mastered the art of truly taking time, and experiencing the flavors of any meal I serve. I, on the other hand, am my own worst critic. Even if the entire family raves about a meal I can always find a flaw if how it tastes, or how I could have prepared it better. A meatball dish that my boys devour in minutes just doesn’t meet my criterion for having the level of moisture or seasoning I was looking for. A chicken marsala that my wife says is restaurant quality is missing something that I just can’t put my finger on, and is never pounded thin enough no matter how thin it is. We as a family are the opposite of Burger King where special orders don’t upset them. At the Vergis house you will be eating what is served. There will be no special meals made because you don’t like fish, or you are not in the mood for chicken again. Don’t get me wrong I have a 14 and a 17 year old son in my house, and neither of them are ever not hungry. As my mother would say “if I put sauce on it they will eat it”.
Recently I have been in a dinner rut, making the same meals on what seems like an endless loop for months. My family would never complain about the home made pizza, smoked brisket, lasagna, Philly cheese steaks, or any of the other dozen or so meals that make up what I will call the Vergis Covid menu, but it all gets boring at some point. With that in mind, as well as eating healthy at least sometimes I have been looking to add some new items to the menu, and what’s healthier than fish? That created other challenges, such as what type of fish, and more importantly how, and where to get fresh quality fish. The first decision was easy: salmon is one of my wife’s favorite meals. More often than not if we are out to dinner she struggles between the salmon dish and another entrée on the menu. The issue of where to get quality fresh salmon was a little more difficult. When we lived in Huntington on Long Island we had a number of fish markets to choose from. One that stands out is definitely Fort Hill Seafood on main street, or in a pinch Jeff’s Seafood on New York Ave in Halesite. Either of these markets always had a wide selection of fresh offerings. Here in Maryland the choices aren’t as plentiful, at least not near our home in Ellicott City. When my office was in Bowie my daily commute took me past a great market right in the middle of Crain Highway in Crofton. The Crab Shack, as it’s called, always had an abundance of fresh raw seafood ranging from the Maryland staple Blue Claw Crabs to Mahi mahi, as well as a delicious menu of cooked selections. The folks manning the counter were always very helpful, and definitely knew their way around a fish market. Now that my office is in Annapolis, and since I haven’t been to that office in over 14 months, getting fresh Salmon was going to take a bit more effort.
To my surprise, the last place I would have thought to look had a fresh quality filet of salmon available. We have shopped at Costco for any number of produce, meat, dairy, and canned goods, but the idea of getting fresh seafood from a big box store never came to mind. While looking for a 12 – 16 pound brisket to throw in the smoker (look for an upcoming post), I came across fresh-not-frozen salmon. I talked to a good friend who advised that he has cooked Costco salmon and has always been very happy with it, so Costco it was. Now only how to cook it and what to serve with it were remaining challenges. Once again being inspired by Gordan Ramsey, I decided to go with risotto and peas as my sides. On any of Ramsey’s shows he is sure to be yelling at someone about mushy risotto, but despite that and the fact that I hadn’t made risotto in years,
I was all in. I am not the biggest salmon fan, but I have to say the combination of salmon, risotto, peas, and lemon butter sauce was awesome. The salmon was not overwhelmed by the taste of lemon like so often happens, the risotto was creamy, soft, and not mushy, and the peas, although not a family favorite, blended in perfectly. I even took the time to plate the dish as if I were on one of Ramsey’s shows (well at least my wife’s plate).
I am not a person who takes pictures of his meals at restaurants, or at home for that case, but you can almost taste the picture my wife took of this meal.
3 lbs of fresh salmon
3 large lemons
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
4 tbsp of butter
Salt/Pepper/Garlic Powder to taste
*Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
*Cut Salmon into 2 inch wide filets (about 8 ounces)
*Season liberally on the skin, and flesh sides of each filet with salt, pepper, and powdered garlic
*Bring your sauté pan with olive oil to temp over medium high heat ( I actually used a cast iron pan)
*Carefully place the filets skin side up into the hot oil being careful not to splash the oil.
*Once filets are in the pan let cook for 4 -5 minutes. You will see the color of the salmon slowly change to a lighter pink as the cook permeates the filet. Be sure not to allow the pan to get too hot as it will scorch the filet. Once the cook has spread to a little more than a third of the way across the filet it is time to flip. Be careful as to not break the filet. Now with the skin side down squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the filet, and cook until entire filet is a light pink.
*Once pink throughout remove from the pan, and place in casserole dish
*In a separate pan melt butter, but do not brown, add chopped parsley, and the juice of 1 lemon to the melted butter.
*With all filets in the casserole dish pore melted butter, lemon, and parsley mix over all filets making sure to cover each completely.
*Place casserole dish in pre-heated oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
*Serve over risotto.
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 Yellow onion
3 cloves of fresh garlic (chopped)
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
*Heat oil in heavy bottomed sauce pan
*Add onion, and garlic and cook until soft (about 5 minutes)
*Add rice, and stir frequently for 5 minutes until all of the rice has a shine from the oil
*Pour in 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil.
*Reduce heat to a simmer, and stir, stir, stir. The trick to risotto is stirring! The moment you stop stirring it will burn to the bottom of the pot. As you stir the chicken broth will be absorbed by the rice, as it begins to get thick, and somewhat dry that is your que to add more broth, and the wine. Again keep stirring. You are looking for a moist but not runny consistency in your risotto, and the rice itself should be soft, but not mushy. My recipe calls for 2 cups of broth, but it is best to have more on hand in case you need it. In a pinch water will do in place of broth. Once the the risotto is almost at the moisture level you like it is time to add the parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. The cheese will thicken your risotto so don’t be afraid to add a touch more broth.