The challenger comes from a pair of meals I took more than 20 years ago, in the restaurants of Tetsuya Wakuda then in Sydney’s Rozelle, and Philippe Mouchel, then at (sadly no longer) Paul Bocuse restaurant at Melbourne Central. In each case the fish was presented simply, retaining that brilliant, raw orange-pink colour—one colour all through. I wrote, at the time, describing each of Tetsuya’s and Philippe’s dishes: “… you could cut it with the back of a fork, with not a mark of pan or grill anywhere”. Although they used different equipment, in both cases—the fish was cooked at a very low temperature. What was fascinating was that Philippe, a proud son of Normandy, learnt his method while cooking in Tokyo, and the Japanese-born Tetsuya “picked it up from a French cookery book”.
- Preheat the oven to 120C.
- Lightly oil a cold pan, and place the salmon, skin-side down into the pan.
- Place in the oven, and cook for 15–16 minutes; the fish is done when a slight milky discharge escapes from the flesh.
- Serve simply, with lemon juice, black pepper, and mashed potatoes.
When you’re on the ropes
If things go wrong—i.e. the salmon is overcooked because you lost concentration, or the timing is wrong—one of the advantages of cooking salmon is that even when slaughtered it still does the job, although you may change the way you serve it.
A slaughtered salmon is best torn into pieces, and tossed through a salad of spinach and rocket dressed with a Thai-inspired dressing (lime juice, fish sauce, sesame oil, palm sugar, ginger, coriander, peanuts). A fine alternative is to make a slaughtered salmon sandwich, using soft white bread, a wipe of pesto, drizzle of lemon juice and a couple of slices of tomato.
I dined on this dish many times in Dublin, courtesy of the plethora of O’Brien’s sandwich outlets. Happily, these same ideas apply when you’ve cooked the fish perfectly.