For whatever reason, I’m generally somewhat intimidated by cooking fish. It seems so easy to over cook it or under season it. And it’s just not something I eat a lot when I’m out, so I’m not sure how I like to have it when I’m at home. But this recipe – this wonderful recipe – is so darn easy. It’s so easy and quick, you can make it for dinner after you get home from work. In fact, this recipe is so easy it’s one of the first recipes I ever learned.
I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: my first cookbook was a few handwritten recipes my mom wrote down in the back of a spiral notebook. She made this my sophomore year of college, and it was my cooking bible until I was 25. The recipe I made the most was for “plain-ass chicken,” which I’ve turned into a beginner chicken dinner recipe. The second recipe, was for baked salmon in foil.
I used to make this recipe using a package of frozen salmon fillets that I’d defrost, season, then bake for too long until I was absolutely sure it was all cooked through (and therefore also pretty dry). Today, I use fresh salmon fillets but frozen will still do the trick too.
To make this chicken, you’ll need three of the seasonings I’ve outlined in the Kitchen Essentials post. Specifically, salt, pepper and garlic powder. In addition to those, you’ll need olive oil (or butter will work too), aluminum foil, and a baking sheet. If you don’t have a baking sheet, that’s ok. Just rip off a long piece of aluminum foil and use it to cover the rack in your oven. You’re doing this, or using the baking sheet, so that juices don’t drip onto the oven and burn and smell and make smoke. I know I didn’t include olive oil, aluminum foil, and a baking sheet in my top 10 kitchen essentials list, but if I made a top 15 list those items would be in it. Overall not too expensive and they are versatile items you’ll use often in your cooking.
Anyway, the best part of this recipe is that it is so easy – all you have to do is trust yourself. Put the fish fillets on a sheet of aluminum foil, season generously – you really don’t need to measure, fold the foil into a packet, bake until the fish is cooked through and flaky (see picture above). The length of cooking is all about the thickness of the fish. Isn’t not so serious the size of the fillets. Buy what looks like a good portion for your appetite and you’ll be fine.
Once you feel like you’ve mastered the basics, there are tons of options for variations. Try using dill or paprika in addition to salt and pepper. Or marinate the fillets in soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Basically, use the same method but change the flavors to make it your own. See, I told you it was easy? Now there’s no reason to be intimidated by making fish because we can nail this recipe.
- 1 salmon fillet per person (size isn't so important)
- garlic powder
- olive oil
- lemon (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F/220°C.
- Rip off two pieces of aluminium foil. When you put your salmon fillet in the middle, you want that aluminium foil to have about 3 inches of space on either side.
- Put the fillet in the middle of the aluminium foil. Lightly drizzle the salmon with olive oil. If you want it all perfectly even, use a spoon, brush, or your finger to make sure the salmon is evenly spread.
- Generously sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Don't shake the seasonings out aggressively, but you can put a visible layer of each on your fish.
- Close up the aluminium foil so that you have a nice little fish packet.
- Put the packets on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
- Bake for 13-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. It is cooked through when the fish is flaky. The length of cooking time is based on the thickness of the fish. Think about 6-8 minutes per ½ inch of thickness.
- Remove from the oven, take out of the foil, and serve. Serve alongside a wedge of lemon if you like.