My mom makes a killer pan-seared salmon. I don’t know whether I’ve devoted any time yet here to my mother and her cooking, which is honestly a travesty, since she’s one of the best cooks I know. In that je-ne-sais-quoi Asian mother way, with no recipes or measuring cups in sight, just an unflappable fearlessness and an apparent instinct in the kitchen. (Also, an apron with fluffy sleeves.)
Anyway, her salmon is only one of the many killer foods she has at her disposal, but it has to be one of the best. It has all the most fundamental elements you’d expect from home-cooked Chinese food — healthy slices of ginger, smashed garlic, and green onions, the deafening hiss-roar when cold food meets a smoking-hot wok (when it’s me at the stove, usually also popping oil and yelps of pain), a splash of shaoxing rice wine, a sweet soy sauce glaze. Done right, the fish is melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a crisp and flavorful caramelized skin.
Unfortunately, there are about seventy-four million ways it can be done wrong, all of which I handily did when I asked how to make it a few years ago — cooking it on too high heat and burning it black before the center cooks through, cooking it on too low heat and ending up with a flavorless pink slab, adding too much soy sauce and feeling like you took a wrong turn and ended up in a hibachi joint by accident. And though you can get the hang of it through practice (or through whatever culinary gifts are mysteriously bestowed upon Chinese mothers), sometimes you just don’t feel like sweating over a sizzling wok, right?
Which is why I’ve recently taken to steaming the salmon en papillote. With the one caveat that you don’t get that crisp, buttery salmon skin (arguably the best part, for some people), steaming in parchment is amazing. It’s easy as pie (easier, actually, since pie is kind of hard) and it’s so predictably delicious, every single time. It’s kind of my favorite way ever to make fish, and I’m sharing it over at Verily Magazine this week. You can check it out here, along with a few super easy recipes for broccoli stem salad and steamed broccoli. Hope you’re all having a wonderful week!