I eat salmon very occasionally because I’m a salmon snob. Anyone from the Pacific Northwest is because to us, our wild Pacific salmon is mother’s milk, the essence of life. From the noble Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) to the humble humpie (Oncorhynchus gorbuschaa) we grow up eating it the way other people eat chicken, fiercely loyal to its magnificence.
SALMON IN FRANCE
In France, salmon is another story. We occasionally get Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) wild from the Baltic sea, but the typical salmon we see is the flabby variety from Norway, where it is raised on farms that are notorious for their size, output, and questionable additives. I never eat it. Besides no Atlantic salmon can ever measure up in either flavor or texture to any of the Pacific species’.
TARRAGON, THE MAGIC SALMON HERB
That said, when I see a slab of glistening salmon from Scotland, with its proud little Label Rouge tag which is a French signature of quality, I occasionally make an exception. Which is what happened today. I’ve been watching the tarragon shoot up in my garden, at its peppery, tender best right now. As any French person knows, salmon and tarragon are a marriage made in heaven and I couldn’t resist.
COOKING A L’UNILATERALE
I cooked the salmon on the gas grill à l’unilatérale, on the skin side. This way, the skin protects the meat from direct heat, allowing it to stay moist and buttery. An extra reward is the shattering crisp strip of skin. To finish, a bit of melted butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a shower of freshly minced tarragon and voila! Quite a lunch.
Come to On Rue Tatin and learn to cook all kinds of fish
EIGHT MINUTE SALMON
One 10 ounce (300g) salmon steak, bones removed, rinsed quickly and patted dry
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
1/3 cup loosely packed tarragon leaves
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- If using a gas grill, preheat the three burners. Place a plancha on the grill, and let it heat to about 425-450F (220-230C).
- Rub the salmon all over with a light coating of oil.
- When the grill is hot, place the salmon on the plancha (you can also place it right on the grill), skin-side down. Put the butter in a heat proof pan and place it on the grill as well. Close the grill and cook the salmon until it is translucent through, which should take 8 minutes. Check the salmon; if it is just about but not quite entirely cooked, you can leave it on the grill another minute or two, remembering that it will continue to cook even when you remove it from the grill.
- To remove the salmon, slip a metal spatula between the meat and the skin and place the meat on a warmed plate. Season it with salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes. Remove the skin and reserve.
- Mince the tarragon and stir it into the melted butter, then stir in the lemon juice to taste.
- To serve, divide the salmon steak in two, and place one piece in the center of each of two warmed plates. Drizzle each piece with half the butter mixture. Cut the salmon skin in two, and balance it at an angle on the salmon. Serve immediately (here with a leeks that have been cut in two, lengthwise, rolled in olive oil with salt, and grilled for 8 minutes along with the salmon). 2 servings