For busy cooks who want to put healthful meals on the table in a hurry, a freezer filled with salmon portions can be a great comfort. Its mild but rich flavor makes it a versatile ingredient. Its high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids make it a virtuous option. Lastly, the ability to cook it quickly -- straight from the freezer -- makes frozen salmon superbly convenient. For the tastiest and most healthful meals, choose techniques that avoid adding sodium or less-healthy fats to your salmon.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. While it's heating, rinse the salmon portions under cold running water to remove any surface frost, or the protective glaze of ice that some processors use to prevent freezer burn.
Dry the salmon portions thoroughly with clean paper towels. Brush or spray them lightly, on both sides, with a healthful high-temperature oil, such as avocado oil, extra-light olive oil or safflower oil.
Arrange the portions on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Don't use parchment, as 450 F is high enough to scorch it and infuse the fish with unpleasant flavors.
Bake the salmon portions for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. After the first four or five minutes, when the surface has begun to thaw, slid the pan partway from your oven and season the portions liberally.
Remove the fish from the oven once the thickest part of the salmon has begun to turn opaque, and serve them immediately.
Salmon en Papillote
Preheat your oven or grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse the salmon portions under cold water to remove any surface ice or frost, then blot them dry with clean paper towels.
Cut or tear a large square of parchment paper or aluminum foil for each portion of salmon. Use parchment in the oven, and foil for either the oven or grill.
Make a small bed of fresh herbs or aromatic vegetables, such as spring onions, daikon or juilienned sweet peppers, in the middle of each piece of foil or parchment. Nestle the salmon portion into the aromatic vegetables.
Lift the edges of the foil or parchment and line them up carefully, then fold them to make a seal. Fold the ends in the same way, making a loose-fitting envelope for each piece of fish. Arrange them on a sheet pan and slide them into the oven, or place the portions on your grill with the seam side down.
Cook the portions in their pouches for eight to 10 minutes, then remove them from the grill or oven and open each pouch. Season the portions to taste, adding a splash of white wine or citrus juice if you wish, then reseal them. Return the pouches to the oven or grill, seam side up, for another eight to 10 minutes, or until the salmon is slightly opaque even in the thickest part of each portion.
Poaching Your Salmon
Make a fish-poaching liquid -- or "court-bouillon," in classical cooking terms -- by simmering water with peppercorns, salt, white wine or wine vinegar, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf or other ingredients to taste for approximately 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and use it immediately, or refrigerate it for other uses.
Fill a shallow pan with court-bouillon, or an alternative poaching liquid, such as fish broth or vegetable broth. Bring it to a gentle simmer, approximately 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the salmon portions under cold running water to remove any surface ice or frost. Turn off the heat under your poaching pan and slide the portions into the liquid with the skin side facing down.
Turn the burner back on and bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid to trap steam -- this helps cook the top of the salmon -- and simmer for four to five minutes.
Switch off the burner and let your salmon rest for four to five minutes in the cooling water, as the gentle heat penetrates to the middle of each piece. Once the portions are slightly opaque even in the thickest section, they're ready to serve.
Things You'll Need
High-temperature oil, such as avocado, safflower or extra-light olive
Herbs or vegetables
Citrus juice or white wine, optional
Shallow pan with a lid
Very thick salmon portions, 1 1/2 to 2 inches or more in thickness, might need to cook for an additional minute or two. If you're baking the portions, these extra-thick pieces might benefit from being flipped to ensure even cooking.
Poach salmon portions directly in a sauce, rather than broth, to make your meal even more convenient. Once the salmon is cooked, spoon the fish and sauce together onto plates and serve them with appropriate side dishes.
Although salmon is cheap and plentiful, it's not always sustainably harvested or farmed. Look for certifications indicating good fishing practices, or sustainable next-generation aquaculture operations.