This one’s easy. Pre-heat your oven, with your cooking vessel inside, to it’s lowest broil setting. You want to pre-heat the pan as well as the oven, especially if using anything heavier like my beloved cast iron. Adding a large chunk of cold metal into a hot space will cool the space and slow down the cooking time.
Rinse your salmon filet in cold water, making sure any loose scales are washed away. DO NOT SKIN the fish! Remember all those lovely Omega-3 fatty acids we were talking about earlier? The majority of them reside in a fatty layer right underneath the skin. Pull the skin before cooking, and all that happy, yummy goodness goes to the garbage can. Also, by broiling it skin side down, the skin allows for easy transfer from griddle to serving dish. Trust me on this.
While everything is warming up, lightly coat the entire fish (meat and scales) in olive oil. In a future blog post I’ll go into excruciating detail regarding smoke point of various fats and why I recommend which ones where, but this one is going to be the exception to the rule, anyway. Usually, you want to use low temp oils in low temp/no temp food preparation. Olive Oil is definitely a low temp oil, along with flaxseed, butter, and a bunch of other ones. High temp oils (corn oil, lard, coconut, etc) should be used for high temp cooking, like we’re doing here. In this one exception, we’re going to be cooking this quickly enough that we’ll be in and out of the oven before the oil gets a chance to smoke. Regular olive oil is probably better than your finest bottle of Extra Virgin, big-buck, uber oil for this as well.
Next, apply your salt, pepper, onion, garlic, and dill to the meat side of the fish. Gently rub the seasoning in, being careful not to damage the meat. Then, add a bit of the coarse sea salt to the skin side. This will make laying the fish on your skillet (as well as taking it off) so much easier.
When your oven is up to temp, pull your skillet/griddle/whatever out and lay the fish skin side down on it. Liberally apply a layer of the parmesan cheese. Set the rack of your oven one notch above the center spot, and insert the fish. The parmesan cheese actually has two purposes here. First, it adds a BUNCH of flavor and aroma to the fish. Second, the parmesan is going to act as our “canary in a coal mine” for this. Once the cheese is toasted, it’s done.
Usually, depending on the thickness of the filet, you’re looking at between 5 and 8 minutes total cook time, though I’ve had some take up to 10. Once toasted off, shut off the oven and let the fish rest inside for a bit, much like you would a steak. This gives the moisture time to re-capalrize (if that’s not a word, it is now) to the outside edges of the meat. Also, one of the best aspects of cast iron is it’s ability to “throw” heat. You’re still cooking, even after the oven is off. Once the rest of the meal is done, and plated, pull the fish and plate accordingly.