In the winter, it’s easy to succumb to rich and heavy comfort foods that stick to your ribs, and unfortunately, stick to other parts of your body too. One of the best ways to give into your heartier cravings is to make a hearty, filling dish with healthy grains and seafood. Gibsons Restaurant Group’s Corporate Executive Chef Randy Waidner. Among other duties, Waidner oversees operations in the kitchen at Luxbar, a neighborhood tavern in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. A lot of delicious things emerge from the kitchen but one favorite is the seared salmon with farro salad.
Chef also offered us a few tips for cooking salmon perfectly, every time. Waidner recommends using fresh, wild caught salmon whenever possible. “Wild salmon contains more nutrients and the finished product is not only better tasting, but a brighter, more vibrant pink color,” said Waidner. “When buying salmon from the store or local fish monger, try and request a fillet from the thickest and center part of the part of the fish. If it smells fishy, it will taste fishy, so make sure it doesn’t have an unpleasant odor.”
Before preparing, remove the skin and the dark fat/blood line (which we call deep skin) from the salmon. This portion of the fish has a stronger flavor and is not always as pleasant to the palate.
At Luxbar, chefs use heavy-based frying pans to cook our salmon, using a combination of butter and oil to create a more succulent piece of fish. Once the fish is opaque and has a golden crust on the presentation side, carefully flip it over and add in the two tablespoons of butter, whole thyme sprigs and garlic. The fish should be firm, yet should give slightly when poked with a fork.
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups dry farro
- 1 cup diced carrots
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced shallots
- ½ cup Tuscan kale-chiffonade
- 2 6-8 ounce fresh or frozen wild salmon fillets
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 sprigs whole thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons butter
Cook the Farro:
- Sauté the farro in 3 tablespoons olive oil until toasted. Add carrots, celery and shallots and cook until vegetables are soft and slightly shimmery.
- Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable stock.
- Cover and cook on low until farro is al dente and liquid is completely gone
- Fold in the kale and cook until wilted. Serve with salmon while hot.
Cook the Salmon:
- Remove salmon from the refrigerator approximately 10 minutes prior to cooking and bring it to room temperature.
- Heat a black steel pan or cast iron pan until almost smoking. Season salmon with salt and pepper.
- Add the rest of the olive oil to pan and place salmon in pan presentation side down. Sear salmon about 4-5 minutes, until slightly browned.
- Remove pan from heat and flip salmon to other side.
- Add five sprigs of fresh thyme and two crushed cloves of garlic. Add two tablespoons of butter.
- Turn flame to medium and return pan to heat. Push salmon to the front of the pan and tilt the handle back. Baste with the flavor butter until salmon is just cooked through and nicely browned/crisp. Serve immediately atop farro.