Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Blackened salmon caesar salad: Cajun romance

As tempting as it was to go out for dinner this Valentine's day, I just couldn't think of an affordable restaurant that was worth the money. Like any other wife, I would LOVE to be taken out to dinner on V-day. Having dinner cooked FOR me, avoiding doing clean-up? No dishes? What's not to love?

Yet, I have ambivalent memories of dinners out. I'm a big fish lover, and as many of you know, ordering a salmon fillet is not cheap. Yet...(I'll admit it, our family doesn't make reservations at places above a franchise-level) the nearly 20$ salmon that I feel extravagant when ordering, most frequently arrives dry, overcooked, under-seasoned, and with pathetic sides.

Well, this V-day I had an amazing opportunity! At a Sobey's a few days ago there was an amazing fish sale. I bought a MASSIVE (and I mean two-meal's worth!) salmon for half price and it was gorgeous. Not fatty or flakey, like your regular frozen salmon, nor Ramsay-priced. I splurged and picked up two and felt extremely culinarily wealthy for having so much good-quality fish in my fridge!

So...remembering the overly-priced jerkied salmon of franchise restaurants, I decided to cook dinner (yes I did!) for Valentine's Day. The fabulous thing was that it was amazingly easy, quick, and simple!

The menu? Home-made Caesar salad with blackened salmon fillets on top.

Mind you, the home-made Caesar salad included home-made croutons made of home-made bread (both bread and croutons are amazingly simply and easy to make--later post!), home-made bacon bits (cut two to three slices into thin strips and fry--easy peasy!), fresh romaine and shredded Parmesan (no need for fresh--you can get grated, which is way better than powdered but way cheaper than fresh).

Okay, so does that sound intimidating? Trust me. It's not. Although the bread was already made, the croutons took about 1/2 a minute to prepare (and about 10 in the oven), the bacon about 2 minutes and voila!

Next on to the salmon...

I was certainly nervous about this. I have a pretty gnarly stove/oven and every time I try to fry fish it's hit and miss. Well, I found this AMAZING recipe and man, did it ever work like a charm! The key is NOT to use less butter than it calls for. Yes, you'll be tempted. You might think blackened salmon with Caesar salad is low-caloric, but in this case we're going for quality over diet! (It is SO worth it, ladies!) So work the butter, people!

Here's the recipe:

2 TBSP paprika
1 TBSP cayenne pepper
1 TBSP onion powder
2 TSP salt
1/2 TSP white pepper
1/2 TSP black pepper
1/4 TSP ground thyme
1/4 TSP dried basil
1/4 TSP dried oregano
1/2 cup melted butter
4 skinless salmon fillets

Mix all dried spices. Melt butter and brush both sides of fillet with melted butter before sprinkling heavily with spice mixture.

In a large skillet on HIGH heat, cook salmon until blackened (2-5 minutes per side). Continue basting in remaining butter. Salmon is done when flesh is easily flaked with a fork.

When I made this I substituted chili for cayenne pepper, and since I didn't have white pepper, I added more black. Because of the amount of butter in the pan, the fish cooked beautifully at 5 minutes per side (when continually basted). Remember: the less butter, the more burning! It may be full of calories but it makes the most beautiful Cajun fillets!

When they're done, let them rest shortly on a paper towel to absorb excess grease and then lie them atop the Caesar salad. YUM!

I must admit (and so did my husband!) that this is a dish that Ramsay would be proud to serve! Just make sure to use good quality salmon (and for goodness' sake, get it on sale!)

That whole meal, for the two of us, cost about 12$--less than the price of one overcooked salmon on some undercooked rice at a franchise restaurant.

Happy Valentine's Day to us! :D

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