At a recent farmers market visit, I struck up a conversation about salmon with the owner of Otolith Seafood, a sustainable seafood company with an online presence and stalls at many local farmers’ markets. otolithonline.com/.
The nice and knowledgeable Amanda was chatting about salmon with another customer, and I was eavesdropping. She mentioned the cooking method called “insulating,” and I just had to interrupt. They kindly welcomed me into the conversation and Amanda continued describing the recipe.
“Most people overcook salmon, especially beginner fish cooks. To avoid that, we suggest this method where you ‘insulate’ the fish with vegetables to keep it from drying out and cook it at a very low temperature,” she said. “At 250 degrees, it’s hard to overcook it, and the vegetables infuse flavor and moisture throughout the cooking process.”
Amanda said it’s the easiest recipe — she described it to me right there over the display table — and I made it last night. It was a huge hit in my house.
This can be replicated with any other type of fish, but be mindful of the cooking time; thin, delicate flounder may only need 12-15 minutes, while thicker cuts like halibut or Chilean sea bass might need 40-45 minutes.
Amanda’s Insulated Salmon
I chose vegetables that I thought would add flavor and not overwhelm the fish. But the possibilities are endless: onion/mushroom/pepper; zucchini/shallot/tomato; garlic/cabbage/spaghetti squash; carrot/leek/celery. For root vegetables like potatoes or beets, or starchier items like butternut squash, sauté the veggies a bit longer in the skillet to ensure that they are nearly cooked through before adding the fish.
The results were fantastic — moist, delicate, tender, melt-in-your-mouth — and I can’t wait to try it with other flavor combos. We served it with a side of sautéed beet greens and, of course, the carrot mixture doubled as a second side, so dinner was healthy, delicious and oh-so-simple. A winner!
- 1 chopped onion
- 5 carrots, sliced
- 1 bunch chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Generous grinding of fresh cracked pepper
- ½ lemon
- ¾ pound salmon filets
Heat your oven to 250 degrees. In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the oil, salt, pepper and vegetables.
Sauté the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
While the vegetables cook, spritz the salmon with lemon, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
Push the vegetables to the perimeter of the pan to make room for the salmon. Carefully place the filets, skin side down, in the pan, and spoon the vegetables around and over the top of the fish. (This is the part known as “insulating.”)
Cook the fish in the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, depending on thickness. The fish should flake easily when done.