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Salmon and peas is a classic New England pairing that's traditionally eaten in Maine on the Fourth of July as a final hurrah to the all too brief season. Usually after the Fourth, the temperature climbs and the peas are done, at which point everyone moves onto sweet corn and tomatoes.
Here, I've taken that Maine tradition and combined it with my go-to method for cooking fish—oven-broiling—for a summery recipe that's as appropriate for an Independence Day get-together as for a weekday dinner.
Salmon is a controversial fish to eat, as almost all Atlantic salmon sold in stores is farm-raised. I happen to believe that it's a beautiful, healthy, and delicious fish that, if sustainably raised by an environmentally-conscious company, has a place on our table.
There are quite a few sources for really top-notch, sustainably-raised Atlantic salmon, and a good place to start is on Seafood Watch, a website run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that maintains an updated list of all the fish they recommend eating (and sadly all the fish they recommend not eating). If you don't love salmon, any rich, oily fish such as mackerel or bluefish would also work.
Because salmon is a rich, oily fish, it pairs well with bright-green vegetables like peas, green beans, asparagus, and even cooked greens like spinach.
Unless you have a garden, I find that it's often easier to find sweet tender snap peas than perfect shell peas: Even at a farmers market, the shell peas have already turned starchy, lacking the ethereal sweetness of their just-picked sibs. So, while I love fresh raw peas, these lightly blanched, crispy snap peas make a great salad for the salmon, too.
Italians traditionally don't really like cream or even dairy with their seafood, and I usually avoid the combination out of habit more than anything. But when I do taste the two together, I am sometimes really surprised and excited at how well cream or crème fraîche or even plain old butter taste with fish. I love the acidic creaminess of crème fraîche, in particular, and if you spoon it over the hot fish right when it comes out of the oven, it melts a little and mixes with the fish cooking juices to make a lovely sauce.
As a restaurant chef, we are almost always grilling or searing single portions of fish in individual pans, but that could quickly drive you insane in a home kitchen with only four burners.
My preferred method of cooking fish at home is to broil it—either whole or already portioned—in the oven, skin side up with a little olive oil and salt and pepper rubbed into the fish skin: It’s easy, not too messy, quick, and, most importantly, cooks the fish perfectly.
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- Black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated horseradish (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped mint or dill or chives (optional)
- 1 pound snap peas
- 1 1/2- pounds salmon fillet, skin on
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
What's your go-to method for cooking fish? Share with us in the comments below!