Easy baked salmon with tons of flavor

We try to eat fish at least once a week and salmon is usually on the menu. I buy it frozen in individually wrapped packages at Costco, and just pull out the servings I need. This recipe is a keeper. It’s probably good as is, but I put my own twist on it. Biggest change: adding more vegetables and baking in the oven, rather than on the stove.

First I carmelized red onion. I sprinkled salt, pepper, brown sugar and a dash of balsamic. I had some baby spinach so I threw that in there too. About half a bag. It cooks down to nothing.

Then I made the glaze for the salmon. I didn’t marinade it as the recipe suggests. I just placed the cooked vegetables in the bottom of my casserole dish and poured the glaze over the salmon. I felt the need for a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was just calling my name. This is how it looked before I popped it in the oven.

This is how it looks after about 10-15 minutes in the oven at 450 degrees. I use a thermopen to make sure the fish reaches about 145 degrees. I’m happy with it a little under. Better less cooked than over, in my opinion.

(I highly recommend this thermometer. Yes, it’s expensive, but well worth the investment. I use it on everything.)

One quick looked at the finished dish on the plate before I tore into it. It was absolutely delicious.

If you have any left over, simply flake the salmon with a fork and chop the onions and spinach. Add some sriracha and mayonnaise – not too much. — Pile it on some artisan whole wheat bread topped with arugula and you have the perfect salmon salad for lunch the next day.

Let me know if you try this. You won’t be sorry!

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Best shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie doesn’t get any better than this. I craved it one day after my brother-in-law posted a picture of his on Instagram. I instantly went to Allrecipes.com, where I found this recipe.  It’s a good starting point, but let me tell you how to make it easier, and faster.

First, don’t bother peeling, cutting, and boiling potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. Simply Potatoes are absolutely delicious, made with all real ingredients, and cover the top of this pie perfectly. That’s about 50 percent of the work gone right there.

Next, the meat. Saute one pound of ground beef, or whatever meat you like. I’m sure it would taste just as good with ground lamb (which I believe was in the original, I mean really original, shepherd’s pie), turkey, chicken, etc. Dump the grease (leave about a tablespoon if you used beef to saute the vegetables) and remove meat from pan.

Now let’s talk about the vegetables. Do not boil carrots until mush. And take a look in your fridge to see what you have. I sauteed carrots (added a little water after browning them a little, covered and let them steam for about five minutes). Then I added some more olive oil, and added one chopped onion. Peas are not welcome in my house, per my son, but spinach – surprisingly – is. So I threw the rest of the opened bag of baby spinach in there too and waited till it wilted. Add the meat to the vegetable mixture.

Finally, the piece de resistance for me is Pioneer brown gravy mix. Follow the directions to make the gravy, but use the one can of beef broth called for in the Allrecipes recipe. Pour that goodness all over the meat mixture.

Spray your casserole dish with olive oil, add the meat and vegetable mixture, and top it with a layer of cheese. Warm up your mashed potatoes so they are more creamy and easier to use, and spread over the top, dropping in dollops all over the place, and mushing together with a spatula to cover your meat and cheese mixture.

Pop it in the oven at 350 degrees and cook for about 20 minutes until you get this oozing, delicious, wonderful meal. It truly is the best shepherd’s pie. Ever.

Perfect grilled BBQ chicken

bbq chicken
Delicious and moist, grilled chicken thighs and legs with BBQ sauce

I was on a mission to make barbeque chicken that was moist, juicy, and not burnt. I find those three attributes do not occur in unison when we use our grill to cook chicken. The time needed to cook bone-in chicken on the grill quickly dries it out, and the barbeque sauce always ends up burnt because of its high sugar content. Enter Tyler Florence.

Using this Food Network recipe, I brined my chicken thighs and legs for two hours. I’m a dark meat girl, and bone-in chicken is my favorite over white, boring, skinless, boneless breasts. For this chicken, I left the skin on and soaked it in a brine made from water, brown sugar, salt and garlic for about two hours. That was the key to its deliciousness.

Another important factor is drying the chicken. Soggy, wet chicken will not give you a crispy skin. So about an hour before cooking, I took it out of the brine, dried it thoroughly with paper towel, then put it back in the fridge to dry some more.

Next step is grilling. And only for 10 minutes. The total cooking time is one hour. I was skeptical about leaving the chicken on the grill for just 10 minutes, but that evaporated when my chicken skin caught fire and burned. I should have watched it more closely. After 10 minutes, however, it was off, and I had my grilled, smoky flavor. The rest of the cooking takes place in the oven.

Off the grill and ready for the oven.
Off the grill and ready for the oven.

While the chicken is cooking, I created Tyler’s homemade BBQ sauce, and it was a winner. Leave out the thyme and feel free to replace the molasses with honey. I eyeballed all the ingredients, and it came out delicious. Just watch how much vinegar you add. How much tang you want is a personal preference. I like it sweet and hot so I kicked it up a notch with some cayenne pepper.

bbq sauce

Serve with creamy potato salad and fruit salad.
Serve with creamy potato salad and fruit salad.

The chicken came out fabulous. Juicy, crispy, fall off the bone good, sweet, tangy, everything you could want from grilled barbeque chicken. I urge you to try this. We ate it with homemade potato salad, and we’re having the leftovers tonight.