I like to prepare Valentine’s Day dinner at home, far away from overcrowded restaurants. Because the meal is my celebration too, I want it to be easy, leaving me time to focus on my sweetie. This year I am going to cook the Roasted Salmon with Thyme Vinaigrette I created last year. I liked the dish so much; I included it in my new book, Weeknight Fresh and Fast. The vivid thyme sauce seasons the fish and dresses a salad of delicate baby greens too, making it 2 recipes in one. Add smashed Yukon gold potatoes (more about those in a minute), and the main course is complete.
On Sunday, I will pick up fresh (or thawed frozen) wild Alaskan king salmon at Santa Monica Seafood, Gelson’s or Whole Foods markets. Alaskan salmon has a subtle flavor, underscored by a wonderful richness. In addition to being a favorite of mine, it is raised and fished using sustainable practices, and is healthful too- a win, win, win. I will make the vinaigrette for the fish and salad when I get home from shopping.
To start off the meal, I plan on sautéing sliced fresh Chanterelle mushrooms with shallots and a little of the thyme already on hand for the fish. I will mound the mixture on toasted pain rustic, and serve it with flutes of sparkling rosé, so we can nibble and chat while I finish the cooking. An even easier starter- a luscious soft cheese with crisp crackers.
Now for the smashed potatoes: cook unpeeled 2-inch Yukon gold potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, for about 20 minutes. Then drain and let cool for 10 minutes. Wrap the warm potatoes in a kitchen towel and press gently to flatten to 1-inch. These steps can be done when you first walk in the door on Monday evening; the potatoes can sit for up to 2 hours before the next step. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté in a little olive oil until brown and crisp on the outside, for about 5 minutes per side. If you have fresh rosemary on hand, chop a little and add it to the oil in the skillet before cooking the potatoes.
For dessert: Fresh berries topped with whipped cream flavored with rum, vanilla and brown sugar; or serve the berries with a purchased chocolate sorbet. I am finding sweet blueberries and juicy blackberries at farmers’ markets, but if you can’t get to a fresh market, good blueberries grown on beautiful farms in Chile are available at most grocery stores.
Roasted Salmon with Thyme Vinaigrette
- ½ tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 3 ⁄4 pound salmon fillet
- 3 cups 3 ounces mixed baby lettuces
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a small bowl, place the mustard. Whisk in the vinegar. Gradually whisk in 2½ tablespoons oil. Mix in the shallot and thyme. Season the vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. Brush a small baking dish with oil. Place the salmon in the dish, skin side down. Spoon ½ of the vinaigrette over the salmon. Let marinate for 15–20 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
- Roast the salmon until almost cooked through, about 15 minutes. Let it rest while preparing the salad.
- In a bowl, toss the lettuces with the remaining vinaigrette. Divide the salad between 2 plates. Cut the salmon in half and put one piece alongside the salad on each plate. Serve right away.
Salmon photo by Kate Sears, from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast