Baked lemon salmon with caramelized onion au gratin potatoes and sautéed garlic kale
Salmon is one fish that is easily accessible and tasty enough that it makes its way into all of our kitchens. I am somewhat of a purest when it comes to seafood, I don’t add much sauce or stuff them with more that fresh herbs, lemons and garlic. I like the fish to taste the way it naturally does with the accompaniment of a complimentary clean ingredient. I love the flavor of salmon and especially wild caught salmon for it’s distinctly vibrant color, robust flavor and that buying wild salmon means supporting smaller farming companies and eating fish from its natural habitat. I get it whenever I can find it at the local fish market. I do not eat salmon that often but when I need a quick fish fix I always opt for it because it requires very little to make it into a tasty dish. For this recipe sadly I had to use farm raised salmon but if you buy from a fish market you are likely to get salmon that is raised in smaller quantities. Do not hesitate to ask your fish monger where it came from or the general practices of the company who supplies them. Wild caught salmon requires a lot more care in cooking because it can dry out quickly. Ideally it should be cooked more medium rare.
Au Gratin potatoes or scalloped potatoes have a special place in my heart. It is such a rich, carb heavy dish that you can’t have regularly. It was reserved mostly for holidays in my family’s house when I was growing up. To this day it is a must have dish for us at every Christmas, Thanksgiving or major holiday dinner. If I had to choose between mac and cheese and au gratin potatoes I would pick the potatoes because they are much more special to me. It might be nostalgia since they have pretty much the same ingredients but au gratin is where my heart lies. *(For this recipe I steamed the potatoes beforehand to shorten the baking time in the oven and to ensure that the salmon and the au gratin can finish cooking at the same time)
These au gratin potatoes have an extra ingredient, caramelized onions. They add a richness and sweetness to an otherwise salt dominant dish.
Serves 2. I added the 2 extra potatoes because au gratin is best the next day, this recipe will allow for 1 more serving each. You will thank me greedy tendencies for this.
4 thinly sliced medium potatoes (do not cut the potatoes all the way through to keep them in the hasselback potato style – see prep picture below for clarity)
2 – 8 oz. salmon filets skin on
2 tablespoons butter
2 small onions
2 tsps sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 garlic bulb sliced thin
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cups fresh kale coarsely chopped with stems about 4″ lengths
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Slice onions into 1/4″ slices. It is best to use a wide, heavy bottom pan to ensure the onions are evenly heated. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. Heat the pan on medium to high heat and add in the onion slices stirring well to cover all the onions with the oil and butter. Spread out the onions in the pan and let them cook, stirring occasionally. Monitor the heat on the pan to prevent the onions from burning. Add in sugar to help with caramelization since we do not have an hour to throughly caramelize the onions the traditional way., the sugar will help speed up the process. Cook the onion for another 5 minutes allowing them to stick and brown and mixing.
*Typically when caramelizing onions you should expect to invest about an hour in the process because there is a delicate balance between slightly browning the onions and letting them stick to pan and tenderizing.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan, melt butter over low heat setting. Stir in the flour, salt and red pepper flakes until it makes a smooth starter. Add the caramelized onions. Gradually add milk and heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a quick boil and cook for about 2 minutes stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove the milk base from the heat and stir in the cheese until it is fully melted. Placed the pre-steamed or boiled potatoes into a baking dish and pour the cheese mix over the potatoes. Use a spoon to add cheese sauce between the potato slices. Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Coat salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of a heavy pan. (I like using a cast iron pan to help crisp up the salmon skin). Add remaining 1/2 of the sliced garlic, scallions and thyme over the area where the fish will be placed. Place the filets skin side down on top of the herbs, coat them generously in olive oil and add 3 slices of lemons on top of each filet. Cook the salmon for 15 minutes.
*While the salmon and au gratin are half way through cooking start working on the kale. Coat saucepan with olive oil at medium to high heat. Add in the remaining 1/2 of the garlic and cook until soft and clear. Increase the heat to high and pour in the water and add the kale. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and cook until all of the liquid is evaporated. Add salt and red pepper flakes to taste and toss with red wine vinegar.
Add one potato to the center of the plate, coat with some of the cheese sauce. Lay the salmon filet diagonally on top of the potatoes. Add few pieces of the crispy garlic on top of the salmon with one of the roasted lemon slices. Place the kale parallel to the potatoes. Serve the dish hot.
This dish is a great dinner option. If you are lactose intolerant like myself, I do not have any substitutions for this creamy dish because any changes will greatly affect the taste and consistency. Stock up on the Lactaid and live a little!