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
4 slices bacon, chopped
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.
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.