As we head into day 137,137 of our stay at home/quarantine, I decided to do a little something outside of our comfort zone and make salmon…at home. Now, I rarely order salmon out unless its sushi, but I’ve had just a few successes at home with salmon and this dish was no different….plus it’s so pretty.
And don’t let the fancy name scare you off. This was super easy. I ordered my Black Caviar Lentils, aka “Beluga” lentils from Rancho Gordo well before the pandemic so I’m not sure how readily available they are in stores, but they are still available here with some possible shipping delays of course. They get their name because they look so much like Beluga Caviar. I’m actually looking forward to cooking with these type of lentils again. They have so much flavor and add drama to any dish. When they arrived I wondered, “what in the world what have I done?” What would I make with them? But a local chef years ago had made them as a bed under some prawns and I saw another dish somewhere on the interwebs with scallops. Well, I’m fresh out of scallops here, but I did have 2 pieces of salmon in the freezer, so that’s how we got here. Serve this salmon and lentils with asparagus or spinach and you have a complete, colorful meal.
About the sauce in this recipe, you can make just about any sauce you want, but dill loves and seafood and cream. I’ve seen similar recipes of dill sauce calling for creme fraiche but I wasn’t about to make a special trip for that so I used cream cheese instead and have noted that in the ingredients. There’s also a tip below for a totally alternate method that I’ve made before (with some modifications) and it’s almost as good just not warm. Both sauces are keto-friendly (but the lentils are not).
Salmon w/Creamy Dill Sauce & Black Caviar Lentils
Wild Caught Salmon filet (try to find one that’s beautifully pink and about 3/4-1 inch thick, about 6-8 oz)
1-2 TBS capers (reserve some juice for later)
Creamy Dill Sauce
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS butter
3 tsp. dijon mustard
4 TBS cream cheese (or creme fraiche if you can find it)
heavy cream (if using cream cheese to loosen to desired consistency)
3 tsp. lemon juice or the reserved caper juice
3 tsp. fresh dill, coarsely minced, plus a few sprigs for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup black caviar/beluga lentils
oil or butter
Chicken stock or water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
dry aromatics like bay leaf or oregano (or you can omit)
First you’ll want to prepare your lentils. Heat oil or fat in a sauce pan. Add lentils and stir to coat. Add the garlic then enough water or chicken stock to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until just tender.
Note: I strongly suggest you take a look at the recommendation on the lentil package as some may require a bit of a different length of cooking time, but this is what I followed per Rancho Gordo.
While the lentils are cooking…
If using a thicker piece of salmon, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add a oil to a hot pan and sear salmon, skin side up, until golden then flip and sear for a couple minutes more. Scatter in the capers (without the juice). You should hear them sizzle and start to crisp. Place pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes until medium doneness. You can cook a few minutes more if you like it more done. Note: my salmon was pretty thin and did not need the additional cooking time beyond the sear, but you may need to do bake it here.
For the sauce:
While the salmon finishes, heat the butter in a sauce pan. After it melts, add dijon and stir well, then add cream cheese or creme fraiche and whisk until smooth and creamy. If it’s a little too thick, add a bit of heavy cream to loosen. I needed about a 4 tablespoons. Add the lemon juice or caper juice, then the dill and stir.
Plate the salmon and capers, drizzle the sauce liberally over (as little or as much as you want) and finish with a sprig or two of fresh dill. Serve along side or atop the beluga lentils. I topped with some local microgreens.
**Let’s just say you haven’t been to the store in 37 days and you’re fresh out of cream cheese. Well you can still make the dill sauce with 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 TBS lemon juice, 3-4 TBS. fresh dill, pinch of salt. You will not heat this. Just mix and serve. Easy peasy. And save it because if you decide to add capers or relish later, it’s totally a tartar sauce and so is the one above that’s heated first, come to think of it.