Paper burns at 451 degrees Farenheit. At least, that’s what my physicist husband told me, exasperated by my stupidity as I closed the oven door on the inferno surrounding the pretty king salmon filet our friend Matt had brought home from Pike Place Market.
You see, first I was going to bake the fish. Then I took a good look at it, and decided that baking it would get the job done, but that broiling would give it a nice browned crust, and I’d just had the oven up nice and high for a batch of Miracle Bread, so I flipped on the broiler and put the salmon, arranged so innocently on a piece of parchment paper, a few inches from the top element.
Within seconds, the fire alarm went off, and after discovering a ring of flames dancing around my (beautifully sizzling) salmon, my husband marched in and started quizzing me sarcastically about the temperature at which paper burns. “I think there was a book about it, does that ring a bell?” Apparently not loud enough for me to hear.
But with the grace and presence of mind I save just for these occasions, I slid the pan back into the oven and shut the door to avoid feeding the fire with more air. (Plus, there was only so much paper left to burn.) My husband stood at the porch door, laughing hysterically at me while he waved the smoke out of the house. Matt came up from downstairs with a look of surprise and awe on his face (this was, um, after he’d watched me pour instead of sprinkle salt into the pile of tomatoes I was adding to the bean salsa when I opened the wrong top on the salt container, resulting in a gametime tomato substitution, which left the dog with a bowlful of very salty tomatoes). I pull out all the stops for guests, what can I say.
But the salmon was delicious, gently browned on top and still a bit translucent in the center, and once I’d picked the particulate matter off the edges, you couldn’t even tell I’d broiled it on a bed of fire. I’d cooked up a rosemary-rich warm white bean salsa (I love salmon with white beans) with the slightly anemic tomatoes the trip to the market had also provided. (Matt fell prey to Pike Place’s “Look! It’s summer!” produce displays.) We ate the salmon, perfectly salted beans, and bread with a few slices of roasted kabocha squash and a plain arugula salad, and forgot all about the fire.
For a timely report on broiling and some good hints, check out today’s New York Times.
And ahh, today is my brother’s birthday. What better gift than an embarrassing moment (or two) for his sister.
Recipe for Broiled Salmon with Truffled Rosemary White Bean Salsa
Recipe 31 of 365
For even cooking, it’s best to heat your entire oven before broiling, especially with delicate foods like fish, which looks better if you never have to turn it over to cook it on both sides. If you broil the fish directly on an only very lightly oiled skillet or baking sheet, you’ll have to clean the pan, but the skin will stick to the pan, enabling you to scoop the fish (and not the skin) off the pan cleanly with a spatula. Try to take the salmon out just before (or just as, if you like your salmon well done) bits of white fat begin to appear on the surface of the fish.
I used about a tablespoon of a mild black truffle/olive oil blend, which gave only the faintest whiff of truffle; use what you have (or none at all) and add it to the salsa bit by bit, until you get a flavor you like.
TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 (15-ounce) can cannelini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (1 1/4-pound) salmon filet
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (or 451, just for kicks).
Make the white bean salsa: heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the onion, and cook the onion until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary, and cook a few minutes more. Add the beans and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the bean/tomato mixture for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After you turn the heat down on the beans, switch your oven from bake to high broil. Place the salmon on a lightly greased baking sheet (a bit of olive oil spray works well) and drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the salmon. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Broil the salmon 3 to 5 inches away from the broiling unit (or whatever works best in your oven) for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.
When the fish comes out, stir a little truffle oil into the beans and pile them onto a serving platter. Top the beans with the salmon, and serve hot.