Russ Parsons's Crisp-Skinned Salmon (Plus Creamy Leeks and Cabbage)

May 12, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 4, with extra leeks and cabbage
Author Notes

Very lightly adapted from Russ Parsons's How to Read a French Fry. (And he says he got the crisp-skinned trick from Thomas Keller.) Parsons adds a touch of cumin seeds to the leeks and cabbage; I prefer it without, but if you are always pro-cumin, add a half-teaspoon of the seeds along with the leeks. —Nicholas Day

What You'll Need
  • The Salmon
  • 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • The Creamy Leeks and Cabbage
  • 2 large leeks
  • 1 cabbage (roughly 3 pounds)
  • 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  1. Trim the leeks, leaving only the white and pale green parts. Slice lengthwise into quarters and rinse well, until any sand and mud are gone. Thinly slice crosswise.
  2. Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the tough core, and thinly slice. Slice the bacon into thin strips.
  3. In a large skillet, cook the bacon and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the leeks and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the leeks soften. Add half the cabbage and cook, stirring, for another 10 minutes, or until the cabbage softens. Add half of the remaining cabbage (not all of it) and cook for another ten minutes, until that softens.
  4. Meanwhile, squeegee the salmon: Rub the back of a knife across the skin of the salmon, not cutting it, but firmly rubbing it, until moisture collects on the knife. Wipe dry the knife and the salmon and repeat, until moisture no longer forms. Cut the salmon into four pieces and season with salt on both sides.
  5. Add the remaining cabbage to the leeks and cabbage, along with the cream. Stir and cook until any liquid is no longer visible when the pan is tilted. Salt to taste. Add the last two tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook for another minute, just until the sauce thickens. Keep warm.
  6. While the cabbage is finishing, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fillets skin side down and cook until the skin is very crisp and the flesh is lightened only about one-third of the way up the side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then turn the fillets and remove the pan from the stove; it will finish cooking off the heat while you serve the leeks and cabbage. Then serve the salmon immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Michael
  • clumsychef
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    Karin Sullivan
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    Simon Y.
I'm the author of a book on the science and history of infancy, Baby Meets World. My website is; I tweet over at @nicksday. And if you need any good playdoh recipes, just ask.

4 Reviews

Michael December 4, 2021
I made this and it good but, I made it a whole lot better by adding a touch of cider vinegar and allot of salt at pepper added to the cabbage and leek mixture before plating. To serve, I mounded the cabbage, then placed the fillet, then sprinkled watercress over top and squeeze of lemon and splash of olive oil to brighten the flavors. A simple dish elevated by skilled execution. Mine was an eight out of ten stars. . . with a little practice it would easily be a restaurant quality entree you’d pay thirty bucks for.
clumsychef June 5, 2015
I just made the salmon portion of this post. It was by far the best salmon I've ever made. Perfection! This will be my default technique to cook fish from now on. Thank you for this recipe!
Karin S. June 4, 2015
It would be great if recipes included the nutritional values.
Simon Y. May 27, 2014
It should go without saying that the salmon needs to be descaled for the knife squeegee on the skin trick to work but many grocery stores will have salmon with the scales still on. The seafood counter people should descale it if asked though be prepared to argue a little as many will not realize the salmon still has scales on until you ask to see the skin and pull off a silver scale in front of them. You may still need to do a little fine detail descaling along the sides and belly of the filet but it's much preferred to doing the entire filet (which you will wind up doing if you squeegee a filet with the scales still on).