Crispy One-Pan Salmon With Spicy Creole Cream Sauce? Heck Yes.

A flavor-packed weeknight dinner to make year-round.

November  9, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Lauren LaPenna. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson.

We've partnered with Hood®, makers of great-tasting, high-quality cream made from real Hood Milk, to share the weeknight dinner we’ll be making all fall long and beyond: one-pot crispy salmon with a velvety Creole cream sauce (thanks, Hood Heavy Cream!) that makes the dish sing.

“Bam!" I’ll never forget the iconic expression Emeril Lagasse made every time he added garlic, cayenne pepper, or a splash of rum to dishes on his classic Food Network cooking show, Emeril Live.

Emeril was my first introduction to Creole cooking from New Orleans. And while I was drawn to the chef’s theatrics on his show, it was the food I became obsessed with. A blend of African, European (primarily French and Spanish), and Indigenous ingredients and techniques, Creole cuisine—which is distinct from Cajun cuisine, though the two are often mistakenly conflated—is practically synonymous with the city in which it was born. I’ve visited New Orleans many times over the years, and some of my best recipes and culinary lessons are inspired by those trips (and Chef Emeril, of course).

One of the most popular dishes that I serve at private dinner parties is pan-seared salmon in a Creole cream sauce—it’s creamy, spicy, and colorful. This dish comes together in a single skillet, meaning it saves me time and cuts down on cleanup at the end of the night. I'm a huge fan of a one-pan meal any day of the week, because it just makes life simpler.

The star of the show is technically the salmon, but really it’s the Creole cream sauce that makes this dish. I like to make a Creole spice blend and keep it on hand as an all-purpose seasoning for when I want full-bodied flavor without having to reach for a bunch of different bottles.

At its core, a Creole spice blend includes paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. If you’re not into spiciness (or absolutely love it), you can tweak the heat level; just increase or decrease the amount of cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon at a time. Variations also include the addition of white pepper and/or dried herbs, like oregano, parsley, thyme, and basil.

Once your Creole spice blend is ready, it’s time to make the salmon, which couldn’t be easier: Start by patting your fillets dry and giving them a hefty dusting of the spice blend. Then, sear the salmon on medium-high heat, skin-side up; the heat allows for a fast sear on the outside while keeping the salmon juicy on the inside. Once your salmon’s got a toasty golden color, remove it from the heat and toss the bell peppers into the skillet. You can use any type of bell peppers you like (they’ll all have a distinctly sweet, crisp flavor), but I like to use an array for a burst of color.

The pièce de résistance: the Creole cream sauce, of course. Heavy cream is the best conduit for a quick, rich, and velvety sauce, since its high milk fat content provides a naturally thick texture—no cornstarch or flour necessary. When the heavy cream hits the hot skillet, it’ll immediately begin to bubble and take on a reddish hue as it marries with the peppers and spices. Once the sauce coats the back of a spoon, you’ll know it’s ready to eat.

When thinking of which grain to pair with this dish, I automatically turned to pasta, which I think is dreamy with just about any cream sauce. But after a side-by-side taste test, I found that this was excellent with fluffy rice, too. (If you do go the pasta route, I’d recommend adding a pint of halved cherry tomatoes to give the sauce a bit more texture and body.) Either way you make it, though, it’s sure to be a weeknight win.

What’s your go-to weeknight dinner this fall? Tell us in the comments!

We've partnered with Hood® to share our weeknight favorites, like this easy-meets-delicious one-pan salmon with Creole cream sauce, starring Hood Heavy Cream.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Freelance Food Writer