The combination of flavors in this easy-to-prepare recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon is out of this world. Bacon, orange, earthy lentils along with the fattiness of the salmon…what more could you ask for?
How to Make Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon
Are you always a little intimidated to cook fish at home?
Afraid it will be overcooked, smelly, not as delicious as you get in a restaurant?
Well, with this recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon, I'm going to change your mind. Definitely, fine restaurant-quality with delectable crunchy skin on the fish, which is cooked to perfection, and served on a world-class earthy-tasting plate of lentils with fresh herbs and smokey bacon AND it's so easy to prepare and impressive to serve.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Salmon filets - Skin on Salmon Filets to be precise. I'll talk about options later, but overall, for it to be crispy skin, you need the skin. Most salmon is sold with the scales already removed, if not ask your fishmonger to do it for you. Don't have a fishmonger? Then here's how to do it yourself.
- Lentils - Raw, dry. I love French lentils in this preparation for their smaller size and earthy flavor. Although you could use these varieties, green, brown, (these will most likely be just labeled "lentils), or black beluga as they all cook pretty much the same. Black Beluga lentils look lovely in the dish but are a bit more expensive than French lentils. I would not recommend yellow or red.
- Onion - 1 medium should cover you. I use yellow onions when I cook for the most part. Not a sweet onion. About ¾ cup diced.
- Carrot - Any color. Peel and finely chop. About ½ cup diced. When chopping carrots, take care as the roundness will make them roll. I cut a thin layer off one side, lay the carrot on my cutting board flat side down, I then slice lengthwise and dice.
- Orange Peel - 4 2-inch lengths of orange peel. The peel only, with little or no white pith. I know many recipes say NO white pith, but I have found that a little bit doesn't really matter. You don't want a thick about of pith, but if you get a bit of white on your orange peel, don't spend a lot of time trying to remove it. It won't make much if any, difference. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.
- Thick Applewood Bacon - Applewood smoke provides great flavor, thick bacon adds great texture. I dice my bacon before I cook it so all my pieces are uniform, or at least more so than if you fry slices and then chop. But either way works.
- Heavy Cream - Also known as "whipping" cream. But keep it unwhipped. The scant ¼ cup of cream rounds out the flavor of the dish.
- Fresh Parsley - Use either curly-leaf or flat-leaf parsley. While some claim that flat-leaf, also known as Italian Parsley has more flavor, I find in most instances them to be closely related in flavor. Texture also plays a role when deciding which parsley to use, but when chopped, as it is in this recipe, I find it really doesn't make much difference.
- Chives or Green Onion Tops - Chives actually have a deeper, more herbaceous flavor than do green onions (also called Spring Onion or Scallion). They are also much thinner, so look great in the presentation. For best results, use scissors when cutting chives. If using green onion, slice very thinly.
- Tarragon - Preferably fresh, but dried will work. While I'm not a huge fan of many dried herbs as I find the flavor to be really less than the fresh version, especially parsley and basil, dried tarragon will still add good flavor. If you don't have tarragon, fresh fennel could be a good substitute. About ¼ cup finely diced and added along with the lentils, onions, carrot, and orange peel. The flavor of tarragon adds so much to the flavor of this recipe, so please, don't omit it.
Tips for Cooking Crispy Skin Salmon to Perfection
- I use the hot-pan method. There is an alternative method called cold pan but I have had varying degrees of success with getting my fish cooked correctly without the skin sticking. But then, BB and I enjoy our salmon more on the rare side, so cold pan has a tendency to overcook my fish before my skin is sufficiently crisp.
- Use the Proper Pan - This is a time when a good cast-iron frypan comes in handy. A well-seasoned cast-iron pan works very much like a non-stick pan but can handle a higher heat which is needed to get that crisp skin. You can also use a heavy-bottom stainless pan. If you get the pan hot enough, and you need to get the pan hot for the skin to crisp, you shouldn't have any problem with the skin/fish sticking to the pan. While there are many non-stick skillets that do not have coatings, you want to make sure you use one with a heavy bottom for even heat. Do not use a coated non-stick pan such as Teflon® as they are not intended for higher heat.
- Make sure the skin is dry - Just like cooking scallops or browning meat, having your protein dry counts. Dry the skin well with paper towels. Putting the filet in the refrigerator, skin side up helps dry the skin even more. So if time permits, place your filets in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
- Get the pan, and the oil hot - You want a sizzle, not smoking. Don't get the pan TOO hot, just enough so when the salmon hits the oil there is a good sizzle. If the pan is too hot you will end up with burnt skin salmon, not crispy.
- Season the skin with salt only - Pepper will burn. We want nothing to burn. You can season the flesh side of the fish with both salt and pepper.
- Cook 90% of the fish on the skin side - Once you have the filet in the pan, skin side down, leave them, undisturbed until you see the sides of the filet turn from translucent to opaque. As soon as the thickest part of the fish turns opaque, turn the fish, cook the flesh side, not more than a minute or so as the fish is already mostly done. Do NOT overcook your fish.
- Serve skin-side up - To keep that crisp. Served skin-side down will create steam that will soften the skin.
No, You don't HAVE to. Only if you want crispy skin salmon. If making this recipe with other than skin-on salmon, you can use any cooking method you choose. Bake, fry, or broil. You can use filets or steaks.
For more information about fish and sustainability, click here.
Yes, you can. The lentils can be prepared up to two days ahead. Chill the lentils and keep them separate from the liquid covered in your refrigerator. You can also fry your bacon ahead of time and keep it separate. When ready to serve, bring the lentils to a simmer, adding enough of your liquid to moisten them. Then stir in your fresh herbs and the bacon.
This is how BB and I like our Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon
You might like yours a little more done. But do not overcook! Cook until it's just opaque.
Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon is the perfect pair for a lean Pinot Noir. The rich fat of the salmon, along with the earthy lentils and smokey bacon is a classic fit. If you are not a big Pinot fan, try a merlot. See how to pair red wine with fish for more information about why this works.
WANT MORE HEALTHY FISH RECIPES?
This recipe is new and improved from Salmon with Lentils and Bacon originally published in February 2012.
Crispy Skin Salmon with Lentils and Bacon
- 1 cup lentils rinsed (Preferably French Lentils or Black Beluga)
- 1 medium yellow onion minced (about ¾ cup)
- 1 carrot peeled and finely chopped
- 4 2-inch long orange peel strips (orange part only, no white pith)
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 – 3 slices thick applewood bacon
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup chopped chives or green onion tops try the chives, they really are different than green onion tops
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
- 4 6-ounce skin-on Salmon fillets ( use wild-caught salmon if at all possible; it’s got better taste, better texture, it’s good for YOU and it’s good for the environment)
- Olive oil as needed
- Combine the lentils, onion, carrot, orange peel, and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. Drain, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid; discard the orange peel. Return the lentils to the pan; season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared day ahead. Cover and chill the lentils and reserved cooking liquid separately.)
- While the lentils cook fry the bacon until crisp. Remove, drain, and chop into pieces. (Hint I like to have uniform pieces of bacon in my dish, so I slice the bacon first into uniform pieces and then fry them.)
- Place a frying pan over medium heat. (Hint - I use the same skillet I use to cook my bacon, excess fat drained for an even smokier bacony flavor). Add a small amount of oil; heat until shimmering but not smoking hot. Season the fish with salt on the skin side, and a bit of salt and pepper on the flesh side. Place in the filet, skin-side down, into the hot frying pan. Cook until just opaque, then turn and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- While your fish is cooking, add enough reserved cooking liquid to the lentils to moisten them; mix in the cream, parsley, chives, and tarragon; bring to a simmer. Add the bacon. Spoon lentils onto warmed plates; top with the salmon, skin side up, and serve.