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from "A New Way to Cook" by Sally Schneider

This recipe illustrates the way several simple components can be combined to make a complex dish. Salmon fillets are seared skin side down in a hot pan to make the skin deliciously crispy, then served on a bed of tiny French lentils that have been cooked separately (they take only twenty minutes) — a classic combination. A sauce of reduced balsamic vinegar mellowed with a little butter ties the two together.

If your fillets are less than 1/2 inch thick, you can cook them entirely on top of the stove without the danger of the fat smoking before the salmon is cooked. If the fillets are thicker, finish cooking them in the oven after you have crisped the skin (although if you have a good exhaust fan, you can cook them on top of the stove without worry). The portions of salmon are slightly smaller here than in other recipes because the lentils also provide protein — and are very filling.

Serves 4

For a Bed Of Lentils
6 ounces lentils (3/4 cup), preferably French lentilles du Puy
2 ounces smoky ham or prosciutto, trimmed of fat and cut into 3 pieces
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1 small Serrano or jalapeno chile, cut lengthwise in half and seeded (optional)
1 shallot
1 imported bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For the Buttery Balsamic Essence
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salmon
Four 5-ounce salmon fillets, with skin*
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chervil

*FreshDirect Note: Our salmon fillets will arrive weighing from 6-8oz. Please plan this recipe accoordingly.

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To make the lentils, combine the lentils, ham, garlic, chile pepper, shallot, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cook the lentils at a bare simmer for 10 minutes. (Do not allow the lentils to boil, or they will become tough.) Add the salt and continue cooking until they are just tender but still hold their shape, about 10 minutes longer. (They will continue to cook as they cool.) Let the lentils cool for about 15 minutes in their cooking water.
To make the balsamic essence, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small non-reactive saucepan over moderate heat. Reduce the heat slightly and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup and thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
If the salmon fillets are more than 1/2 inch thick, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the salmon skin side up on a work surface. With a thin sharp knife or a razor blade, make several shallow parallel slashes in the skin of each fillet about 1 inch apart. Turn the fillets 90 degrees and make several more slashes to form a crisscross pattern. (This will keep the skin from curling when it hits the hot pan.) Sprinkle lightly with salt and the cayenne.
Heat a large heavy nonstick (ovenproof if using fillets more than 1/2 inch thick) skillet over moderate heat until very hot. Slide the salmon skin side down into the pan and cook until the skin is crisp and brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the salmon fillets over. If they are less than 1/2 inch thick, cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until the fish is opaque and a two-pronged kitchen fork inserted straight down meets with no resistance. If the fillets are more than 1/2 inch thick, place the skillet in the oven and roast until the salmon is opaque, 4 to 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain the lentils, reserving 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the ham, garlic, chile pepper, shallot, and bay leaf. Return the lentils to the saucepan and stir in the reserved cooking liquid and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the lentils over moderate heat, stirring frequently until hot. Toss in the parsley, cover, and keep warm.
Let the salmon rest for a minute or two.
Return the balsamic sauce to moderate heat and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and stir until blended.
Mound the lentils in the center of four dinner plates. Place 1 salmon fillet crispy skin side up on top of each mound, then spoon about a tablespoon of the sauce around the lentils. Serve at once.
In Advance
You can prepare the lentils up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate. Warm gently in a covered medium skillet, adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Add the parsley just before serving. The balsamic vinegar can be reduced several hours ahead, and left in the pan at room temperature. Add the butter at the last minute.

Use Organic Use Arctic Char
Product nutrition and information
 Quantity Ingredients Est.Price
  Goya Dried Brown Lentils - $2.39/ea
Redondo Iglesias Serrano Ham - $23.99/lb
  Garlic - $3.99/lb
  Jalapeño Pepper
This product is currently unavailable.
  Shallots - $2.99/ea
  Monari Green Label Balsamic Vinegar - $4.99/ea
 17fl oz
  Wild Arctic Char Fillet
This product is currently unavailable.
  Italian Parsley - $1.99/ea
You May Already Have
  Spice Supreme Bay Leaves - $1.29/ea
  Morton Regular Salt - $1.19/ea
  Breakstone's All-Natural Unsalted Butter - $3.19/ea
 2ct, 4oz ea
  Spice Supreme Cayenne Pepper - $1.29/ea
  Gefen Ground Black Pepper - $2.79/ea
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