Trio of big flavors makes one simple meal: Salmon with Arugula Bacon Salad

by Terry B on May 19, 2010

Seared salmon fillets and an arugula salad are both flavored by bacon, for a quick, satisfyingly flavorful meal. Recipe below.


Is there anything bacon can’t make taste better? Okay, pig meat is having its moment, as we all know. Chefs everywhere are going crazy for every cut of pork, the fattier the better, and bacon is turning up in some pretty strange places. I’ll admit that it didn’t do a lot for a chocolate bar I once sampled. But when paired with the right partners—especially equally big-flavored ones—the addition of bacon is hard to beat and even harder to resist.

Salmon may not seem like an obvious choice to pair with bacon—or seafood in general, for that matter. But all of those “surf and Turf” combos of the late ’60s were on to something, I think, beyond the marketing gimmick novelty. The different textures and flavors of the seafood and beef probably complemented each other quite nicely.

In this combination, the salmon brings a meaty quality of its own to the table as well as a bigger flavor than, say, sole or another delicate white-fleshed fish might. The arugula (or rocket, as it’s called just about everywhere but the US, a name I much prefer) stands up to the bacon beautifully too, with its peppery kick and satisfying crunch. Throw in some lemon juice and Dijon mustard in the dressing and you’ve got some major flavors teaming up on your plate.

Salmon with Arugula Bacon Salad
Adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

4 slices bacon, chopped
canola oil
4 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
freshly ground black pepper
4 generous handfuls of arugula (can substitute salad greens)
24 grape tomatoes (or more, if you like)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt, if needed

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Drizzle in some canola oil and cook the chopped bacon until very crisp. While bacon is cooking, season salmon fillets generously with black pepper on the non-skin side (even if your fillets are skinned, you’ll know which side is the non-skin side). Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Increase heat to medium-high and place the salmon fillets in the bacon grease, peppered side down. Sear for about 4 minutes, then turn. While salmon is cooking, place arugula and tomatoes in a salad bowl and toss to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook to desired doneness—another 4 to 5 minutes will leave them slightly pink inside, which is perfect; don’t overcook or you’ll dry them out. Turn off heat and transfer salmon fillets to individual plates.

Add lemon juice and mustard to bacon grease and whisk to combine. Pour over arugula and tomatoes. Sprinkle on bacon and toss to combine. Plate salad next to salmon fillets and serve. Have a salt shaker available at the table, but between the bacon and the Dijon mustard, you probably won’t need it.

Kitchen Notes

How was it? Delicious! The salmon was only subtly flavored by the bacon grease, but the salad was an explosion of flavors, including the bacon. We quickly discovered that the best way to eat this was to combine the salmon and salad in each bite.

Use arugula if you can find it. Its peppery kick really does bring a lot to the party. If you can’t find arugula, try for salad greens that contain radicchio or escarole or something else with some bitterness to it to stand up to the other flavors.

Up for another salmon and salad combo? Try my Seared Salmon with Mixed Greens and Miso Vinaigrette, with thinly sliced salmon served still warm over a mix of salad greens and vegetables.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Koek! May 19, 2010 at 8:40 am

I think fried bacon fat is about my favourite taste in the entire world… Not great for the ol’ waistline though! Lovely dish — simple but elegant.

ellen May 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

I cannot wait to make this dish!! It sounds simple and delicious. What a great combination of flavors.

altadenahiker May 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Surf & Turf — we used to call it Whale and Tail.

This sounds really good. And thank you for the detailed cooking instructions.

Terry B May 19, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Koek!—My grandmother used to save her bacon fat. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to kitchen stuff, so I’m not sure what she did with it.

Thanks, Ellen! Hope you like it.

Altadenahiker—”Whale and Tail?” Amusing, but as an old burger ad used to say, “Where’s the beef?” Unless you mean blubber and oxtail, which makes sense, but doesn’t sound particularly enticing. Oh, and thanks—it was really good, he said immodestly.

Laura [What I Like] May 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Oh yum…warm bacon fat salad dressing is one of my absolute favorites! I went through a major bacon/frisee/poached egg salad phase a few years back, but I love this addition of the salmon to the mix.

[email protected] May 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Bacon grease salad dressing on arugula. Yes, this is why I put you as a favorite link.

Dani H May 20, 2010 at 1:33 am

I love bacon, salmon and arugula! One slice of bacon per serving ~ surely that’s offset by the healthy qualities of the salmon? Your “Seared Salmon with Mixed Greens and Miso Vinaigrette” sounds delicious, too.

My mother saved bacon grease in a coffee can and used it for frying foods like potatoes or eggs, and also often made warm sweet and sour wilted lettuce or cabbage with bell peppers. I don’t seem to ever fix either dish, but with bacon grease, a spoonful of sugar and a little vinegar ~ heaven! I rarely prepare any fried food, but it was a large part of my mother’s cooking while I was growing up and certainly delicious. Thanks for another tempting recipe, Terry. Hope you and Marion have a great week!

dick May 20, 2010 at 4:14 am

I would think chicken thighs would work with this pretty well. I am allergic to all fish so this is not an option. The chicken thighs might have enough flavor on their own to offset the bacon flavor and with the salad would work pretty well.

My mother and both grandmothers all saved bacon grease and used it as first choice for frying most things. They also all made wilted greens of all kinds using bacon grease and used bacon grease in German potato salad.

Natalie May 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm

That is a really great looking dish.. i love grape tomatoes, so fun to just pop in the mouth!

cara @ City Girl Chicago May 25, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I was just planning dinner and thinking of what’s in the fridge (arugula and bacon), and was thinking of running out to the store to get fresh fish ~ how timely that I see your blog post just now! This is now my dinner plans for tonight :)

Terry B May 26, 2010 at 3:26 am

Thanks for the lovely comments, everyone. We were just in New York City for four glorious days, so my comment-answering duties were abandoned. Cara, I hope you liked it!

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