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Seal It With a Sear

QUICK FIX

March 05, 1997|JOAN DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pan searing is a fast method of cooking salmon that creates a crisp, golden top crust. The technique calls for a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and, because such high heat is used, a spatter guard to cover the pan and an exhaust fan to handle the steam and smoke are recommended.

By heating the skillet empty, you reduce the oil needed to coat the bottom to only a teaspoon. If you prefer salmon rare in the center, you can reduce your cooking time.

If you don't find hazelnuts in the baking section of the supermarket, buy them at a health food store. If only whole nuts are available, see Shortcuts for a mincing method.

Menu (UNDER 30 MINUTES)

Pan-Seared Salmon With Hazelnut Butter

Herbed Rice

Asparagus

COUNTDOWN

30 minutes before: Chop shallots and basil. Start rice.

25 minutes before: While rice simmers, prepare asparagus for cooking.

15 minutes before: Start heating cast-iron skillet. Make hazelnut butter.

12 minutes before: Begin searing salmon and cooking asparagus.

INGREDIENTS

STAPLES

Butter

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth

Lemon

Oil

Rice

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Shallots

SHOPPING LIST

24 pencil-thin asparagus spears

1 bunch fresh basil

Roasted hazelnuts, chopped or whole

4 (6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, about 1 1/4 inches at thickest point

PAN-SEARED SALMON WITH HAZELNUT BUTTER

HAZELNUT BUTTER

2 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced roasted hazelnuts

SALMON

1 teaspoon oil

4 (6-ounce) skinless center-cut salmon fillets, about 1 1/4 inches thick

Freshly ground pepper

HAZELNUT BUTTER

Blend butter, lemon juice and hazelnuts.

SALMON

Place 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat about 3 minutes. When a few drops of water dance on bottom of pan, remove pan from heat, add oil and tilt pan to evenly coat bottom. Continue heating pan 30 seconds, until oil almost smokes.

Place salmon, skin side down, in skillet and cover with spatter guard. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how done you want it. Carefully turn salmon pieces, lower heat to medium and cook another 3 to 5 minutes.

Gently peel off skin. Serve salmon, crisp side up, seasoned to taste with pepper and topped with dollop of Hazelnut Butter.

4 servings. Each serving, with Hazelnut Butter:

313 calories; 123 mg sodium; 105 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

HERBED RICE

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 tablespoon minced basil

1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth

1 cup rice

Salt, optional

Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan. Saute shallots until transparent. Add basil and cook 1 minute over medium heat.

Add water to broth to measure 2 cups. Stir rice and broth into pan. Increase heat until mixture boils, then cover, reduce heat and cook about 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

Fluff rice with fork. Season to taste with salt.

4 servings. Each serving:

249 calories; 526 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.17 gram fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Kitchen Tip

To cook fresh asparagus, snap off the tough lower ends of the spears where they break easily. Rinse the spears well under cold running water, place in a wide skillet and add 1/2 inch water. Bring the water to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer 5 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness, until just tender when pierced. Drain before serving.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SHORTCUTS

* Chop basil by placing several leaves in a stack and rolling them into a cylinder. Thinly slice, then mince.

* Buy pencil-thin asparagus to eliminate peeling. And, of course, thinner asparagus cooks faster than thicker spears.

* To quickly mince whole roasted hazelnuts, drop the nuts through the tube of a food processor with the motor running.

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