I’ve written before about my fear of cooking fish—I fret about the smell, the technique, and mostly the taste. My worries are not theoretical: I’ve failed many times with home cooked fish and I’ve had a lot of restaurant fish that didn’t thrill me. In other words, I’m not only entirely unskilled at cooking fish, I’m also really picky about eating it. Yet I still try.
I’ve tried Gwyneth (good, but above my skill level), Ina (way too much sauce), and Pinterest (mismatched flavor combinations) with no success. My date with destiny finally arrived in a random recipe email that linked to a blog I’d never heard of. I usually wouldn’t bite on something completely unknown, but the recipe was so simple that I couldn’t imagine it not being good: salmon marinated in a honey mustard sauce and roasted. I like honey mustard sauce. I like roasting. It seemed like a worthy gamble.
The results were a happy success. The salmon was silky and tender and the sauce was sweet and garlicky. Ed noted, half-jokingly, that the sauce is reminiscent of the honey mustard dipping sauce from Culver’s, a midwestern fast food and frozen custard chain we adore. He’s not far off the mark: it’s very sweet and a little tangy like Culver’s sauce, but it has a tiny bit of heat that’s unique.
I’ve now made this salmon many times and I’ve yet to mess it up, which I credit to marinating the fish for 2 hours. The marinade is an insurance policy against overcooking. The meat has stayed juicy even when I’ve accidentally let the fish reach internal temperatures that veered north of the acceptable range. Using a Thermapen to check the salmon’s doneness is another reason that I’ve had better luck with this dish than others (even when I check the temp too late). Leaning on a temperature reading has boosted my confidence in judging when salmon has crossed the line from translucent to opaque and from flimsy to firm. It might be cooking with training wheels, but I don’t care—I’ve finally found a fish dish to love.
honey mustard salmon
adapted from rasa malaysia
The original recipe gives a range of marinating time of 30 minutes to 2 hours. I recommend the full two hours for the most tender, flavorful fish.
2 6-ounce portions salmon, skin on
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mirin (sweetened sake, look for it in the Asian food section of the grocery store)
3 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A few dashes black pepper
In a dish large enough to fit both pieces of salmon snuggly, whisk together garlic, honey, mirin, dijon, salt, cayenne, and pepper. Add salmon pieces, turning to coat with sauce, and marinate for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Remove fish from marinade and place in an 8-inch by 8-inch ovenproof dish. Pour marinade over fish. Roast for 14 to 18 minutes or until fish is opaque and firm (but not yet flaky) and reaches 135ºF to 145ºF. Remove fish from pan, remove skin with spatula, and serve topped with leftover sauce from pan.