By now you all must know that awful feeling that goes along with breaking something in a store that you haven’t purchased.
We’ve all done it at one time or another; weather it be accidentally toppling over a wobbly table with a humongous (but oh-so-fashionable) handbag, unknowingly backing up into a display of precariously stacked jars, or inadvertently knocking over a decorative photo frame while reaching for a piece of (delicious! free!) candy at the cash register.
It’s mortifying and it’s face reddening, and I happened to experience it while shopping for the very few ingredients required for this baked salmon dish.
I was strolling through the aisles of our adorable and convenient (but not exactly discount) neighborhood grocery market, gathering up a few things that I needed for that evening’s supper. I was somewhat self-absorbed at the moment; in-between scrolling through my iPod app searching for the perfect tunes to be-bop along the aisles to, I was flip-flopping back and forth to my notepad app, mentally checking items off my electronic grocery list as I tossed cucumbers and salad greens into my pint-sized pushcart.
Never to be one of those people who selfishly keep their ear-buds jammed in at all times (do they really think that we like to hear them shout over their MP3 of “Now THAT’s what I Call Music #487″ blaring out of their iPod?!), I of course politely remove them whenever I know I am about to interact with a human being or stand in a line.
At the very moment I picked up a large jar of capers packed in brine, I heard Jack, the fishmonger, yell me a friendly hello. I turned, and my hand got caught in a tangle of my aforementioned gargantuan handbag and headphones, and I accidentally karate-chopped that poor jar straight onto the floor.
One very hard - very tile - very unforgiving floor.
Needless to say the jar burst into six-billion miniscule pieces, and the little caper berries went floating in every direction, buoyed by tides of their frothy and salty brine. I cringed as I looked around – these sort of things never seem to happen when you are by yourself – and, as luck would have it, I had a nice sized audience, all staring at me with open-mouthed looks of pity.
After apologizing profusely to the poor high schooler that had darted over to clean up my mess, I sheepishly grabbed another jar of capers, and gave my order to Jack.
Thankfully, that mild snafu was the only negative thing involved with making this baked salmon dish, and though it caused me to rush through the rest of my shopping trip (because for how much longer can one stand to be that girl who spiked a caper jar in the fish aisle?!), it was totally worth it. This dish combines three of my favorite things: salmon, creme fraiche, and mustard – and not much else. The silky sauce, which is a quick and easy combo of sharp dijon mustard and creamy creme fraiche, gets a stirring of those much maligned capers, and is drizzled over the top of a fresh salmon filet. A quick bake in the oven at high heat thickens the sauce and binds it to the fish, and the filet cooks up gorgeously, staying moist, tender, and becoming perfectly flaky.
It’s about the easiest weeknight supper there is, and the entire dish, though certainly fancy-schmancy enough to hold court at your next dinner party, goes from fridge to table side in less than a half hour.
Baked Salmon with Dijon, Creme Fraiche, and Capers
I prefer to roast a whole 1 1/2 pound salmon filet, rather than cut the fish into individual pieces – I think the fish makes for a more impressive preparation when brought to the table that way, and it’s really easy to simply spoon off pieces as you serve it.
Keep in mind that since this is a recipe with very little ingredients, it is important to buy the best that you can find of each; with so little clutter there is nowhere for each ingredient to hide, and the best salmon and a good quality dijon will make all the difference.
As long as your pan or skillet is large enough, you can double (or triple) this dish as you see fit; you may need to cook a very large or thick filet for slightly longer, but keep an eye on it, as you definitely do not want to overcook this at all. Just barely opaque all the way through, and you’re finished!
1 1/2 pounds salmon (skin on/left whole/not cut into separate filets)
3 Tbsp good quality dijon mustard
3 Tbsp creme fraiche
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed of their brine
olive oil, as needed
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Preheat your oven to 425F. Season your salmon filet liberally on both sides with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. In the bottom of a large cast iron pan or large oven-proof skillet, place just enough olive oil to barely moisten the bottom of the pan; this will help to ensure the fish does not stick at all.
Whisk the dijon mustard and creme fraiche together in a small bowl, and then add in the rinsed capers. Stir well to combine. Place the salmon filet skin-side down into the skillet, and then drizzle your mustard-creme fraiche sauce evenly over the top. Bake the salmon in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, just until the salmon is no longer opaque inside and it flakes easily when prodded with a fork.
Serve the salmon immediately, and spoon any sauce that has accumulated in the pan over the top.