As I’m writing this in the Northeast part of the States, I’m cold. In other areas of the country, you are colder. I spend a not-insignificant part of my day engaged in small talk with neighbors and business colleagues about how bad the winter has been and how spring is taking its own damn sweet time.
However, there are little nubs of green poking out from the ground (the tulips didn’t know the it’s cold up her on top of the earth). And we presume Mother Nature is working her magic, nudging Spring along. So as you’re reading this, hopefully you’re thinking more along the lines of t-shirts than sweaters, and dreaming of the fresh, light meals that go hand in hand with this time of year.
How about a bright, rich pink piece of salmon perched atop a bed of polenta, piled with a mound of roasted cherry tomatoes, collapsed into their own sweetness? Well, all right then, we’re on the same page.
When I want my filets of fish to look perfect, I’m a fan of starting the pieces fish in a hot pan, then transferring them to the oven to finish cooking, so that they stay intact and beautiful, instead of flipping them in the pan. If you decide to use salmon with the skin on, starting them skin down in a hot pan also ensures that delicious crispiness.
You could add any number of things to the topping here: chopped olives, different herbs, capers, and maybe a few curls of Parmesan cheese for an extra special presentation.
A small bunch of daffodils on the table wouldn’t hurt either.
Salmon with Polenta and Warm Tomato Vinaigrette
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- 1 cup cornmeal or polenta
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 4 6- to 8-ounce salmon filets with skin if desired
- 1 shallot chopped
- 1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a heavy Dutch oven or large (4-quart) saucepan bring the broth and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat, sprinkle in the polenta, whisking all the while, and keep adjusting the heat so that the mixture stays at a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer and whisk semi-frequently until the mixture has thickened and become creamy, about 20 minutes.
- While the polenta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and oregano and sauté for another 4 minutes or so, until the tomatoes have collapsed slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl, stir in the vinegar, and tent with foil to keep warm.
- Return the pan to medium high heat and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place the salmon skin side down (if applicable) in the hot pan and sear for 4 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the fish for about 5 minutes, until cooked to your liking.
- Meanwhile, when the polenta has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and whisk in the Parmesan and the butter. Taste and add pepper and additional salt, if needed. Divide the polenta among 4 plates. Use a metal spatula to transfer the salmon filets on top of the polenta, and spoon over some of the tomato vinaigrette. Serve hot.
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