It's been a long winter. Yes, the understatement of the year. I'm writing now in New York City, where it's a cool 33 degrees and almost April. This makes everyone in the city a little stir-crazy, itching for the thaw of spring weather and fresh green anything. Personally, I've had it with "restorative" soups and stews, braised meats and root vegetables galore -- much as I love these items in the thick of winter's cold. So, what to make when the mercury says it's still winter but our hearts, minds, and palates are aching for spring? Salmon with mustard cream sauce is the perfect "bridge" dish between the seasons.
We all know by now that salmon boasts lots of Omega-3 fatty acids and that it's one of the most healthful varieties of fish to consume. A tangy mustard-cream sauce is a classic accompaniment that really brightens the fish and cuts its strong flavor and richness with zing. Adding a bit of freshly chopped dill to the sauce is a classic herbal touch, though not necessary. Pairing the fish with some winter veggies -- we do have to clear out our fridges of beloved winter greens somehow, don't we? -- grounds the meal in the now while we look towards the coming spring with open arms (and full bellies!). Roasted beets, sauteed brocoletti (with plenty of garlic and chili pepper), and a long grain and wild rice combo are the perfect sides to make this a well-rounded dinner. A mix of color is the easiest way for you to create a balanced meal without much effort.
How to make the sauce? Simple. You can use the same pan you use to cook the salmon.
First, heat some olive oil in a saute' pan (nonstick is best). Sprinkle the salmon fillet with plenty of salt, and place in the pan. Note: if you have the skin on the fillet, you can place it skin side down in the pan first, to crisp it up. Otherwise, put the top side down.
Second, sear for 3-4 minutes on the first side so it releases from the pan easily. Flip, and cook on the other side for another 4 minutes or so. Salmon is best served medium-rare to medium (if you like it cooked through, you can place in a 350-degree oven to finish).
Third, remove salmon fillet from pan, and pour about 1/2 cup heavy cream into the pan. Add 1-2 tablespoons of grainy dijon mustard, and gently whisk to mix completely. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Add salt to taste, and if you're adding chopped dill (chives or parsley work well, too), do that at the very end. Mix, taste for seasoning, and then pour the sauce around the salmon fillet and any sides you like. Come spring, this salmon-and-sauce works extremely well with simple seared asparagus, as in the photo above.
Enjoy, and here's to a tasty, soon-to-arrive SPRING!