Salmon has a striking appearance, is flavorful, and is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These are just three of the great reasons to add it to your diet. Preparation is relatively easy as well. Salmon can be cooked using a variety of methods. It is commonly smoked to make gravlax, baked, or poached. In addition, you can use just about any common herb or spice to season it though not all work equally well.
There are many old cooking traditions surrounding salmon in both North America and Europe with cooks on both continents developing spice pairings that go well with its flavor, which can range from mild to intense. Here are some of the best spices to use for cooking salmon.
Sea salt’s clean brininess is a great complement to salmon’s richness. Along with saltiness, it can enhance the umami notes in salmon and help to increase the attractiveness of the presentation. Another benefit is that when you apply it right before serving the salmon, sea salt will bring a pleasing crunch to the texture. Ideally, sea salt should be added no matter which other flavors you use to season your salmon.
Along with salt, black pepper is considered one of the two basic components of western seasoning. Black pepper adds a mild heat and piney bitterness to the salmon that pairs well with its flavor and the flavors of other spices.
The flavor of citrus fruits is known to go well with most types of fish, especially oily fish like salmon. Lemon pepper consists of lemon peel and black pepper and brings tangy citrus notes to salmon along with a little heat. Lemon pepper has the benefit of being widely available; you may already have some in your spice cabinet.
Lemon zest can enhance both the aroma and the flavor of salmon, but it will not provide acidity. Acidity is a valuable tool for cutting through the fattiness of salmon, which is why the juice of lemons or limes are often added to dishes that feature fatty fish.
Like lemon juice, mustard adds a tartness to salmon and can help to balance its fat. It also boosts the savory notes and works well with most of the other spices that you might use. Both Dijon and English mustard are commonly used to flavor salmon. You can use either the prepared or the dry and powdered versions of the spice with the fish. Which you choose depends on your preferred cooking method. Dried mustard is a better option for a dry rub for salmon that you plan to grill; prepared mustard is better for baked salmon.
As noted above, heat is a great complementary note for salmon. While you can get that heat from black pepper and chilies, you can also get it from horseradish. Horseradish gets its heat from a compound called allyl isothiocyanate and it is somewhat different from the types of heat that piperine and capsaicin provide. Allyl isothiocyanate has more of an effect on the sinuses rather than the mouth. Along with its benefits for flavor, horseradish is also said to stimulate digestion.
Dill is the most traditional herb to use on salmon. Its bright, herbaceous notes pair well with the fish and with lemon juice. The result is a flavor combination that perfectly accents the salmon flavor without overpowering it. Dill also works well with both mustard and horseradish, thus offering you numerous options for seasoning your fish.