The best baked salmon recipe

Each year, I am lucky enough to enjoy catching some of the bountiful salmon that inhabit Lake Michigan. Below is the best baked salmon recipe in my collection. Read on for an ingredient list, step-by-step instructions, as well as tips and substitutions.

Basil-Parmesan Salmon Recipe

  • Olive oil
  • Two, eight-ounce salmon fillets, skin removed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 5 Basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Step 1: Coat baking sheet lightly in olive oil. Then pre-heat oven to 425° F.

Step 2: Place seasoned salmon on prepared baking sheet.

Step 3: Sprinkle desired amount of salt and pepper over the fillets.

Step 4: Chiffonade the basil leaves. Mix them in with the mayonnaise and cheese in a bowl. Stir until combined.

Step 5: Gently and evenly spread the mixture over the top of the salmon with a spoon.

Step 6: Place baking sheet on the middle rack of your oven until the salmon flakes easily and the spread has browned slightly, about 10-12 minutes.

Substitutions and Tips

This dish can be super rich. I actually prefer it that way. But if you want something a little more refined, there are two options for you.

The first is adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the fillets prior to seasoning with salt and pepper. The acid from the citrus will help balance the richness of the topping.

Another method to contemplate is pairing this protein with a fresh side salad. Again, for the sake of balance.

Be sure to check on the salmon at around the 9-10-minute mark. If the fish is close to done, but the mayonnaise and cheese mixture isn’t showing signs of browning, move the fish up the top rack for a minute or two. If you take this route, be sure to keep a close eye on the fish to avoid overcooking.

Parmesan-crusted whitefish recipe

Whitefish is one of my favorite fish to eat. While I particularly enjoy them smoked, this recipe for Parmesan-crusted whitefish is a delectable way to turn these fierce fish into a formal meal. The contrast between the tender, flaky fish and the crispy crust is hard to match. The simple, yet flavorful cream sauce ties it all together. Read on for the recipe, as well as for tips and substitutions.

Parmesan-crusted whitefish recipe

  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 4 cloves Minced garlic
  • 1 cup Cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup Heavy cream
  • 4 Whitefish fillets, skinned
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. Granulated garlic
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)

Step 1: Place a medium skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic, and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook for two minutes. After reducing the heat to medium-low, add the heavy cream. Simmer until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon (about 15 minutes).

Step 2: Coat the bottom of another skillet with vegetable oil and place over medium heat.

Step 3: Briefly rinse the whitefish fillets and pat dry. Sprinkle salt and pepper over each side.

Step 4: Grab two medium bowls. Into one bowl, add breadcrumbs, garlic, and Parmesan. Stir to combine. In the other bowl, crack the eggs and use a fork to gently beat.

Step 5: One-by-one, add the whitefish fillets to the flour. After shaking off the excess, dredge in the beaten eggs, then transfer to the bowl filled with the bread crumb mixture.

Step 6: Add the filets to the heated skillet, being sure not to over-crowd. Cook for roughly two minutes per side.

Step 7: Place cooked fillets onto a paper towel or cooling rack.

Step 8: Plate the fillets, cover with sauce, and enjoy.

Tips and substitutions

Fresh whitefish is the best whitefish. If you can help it, try not to freeze your catch. The meat loses a lot of its integrity when frozen then thawed. The guides we fished with recently even had us put our fish in insulated bags while we were out on the ice to prevent our haul from hardening.

If you are taking the skin off the fillets yourself, you will need an incredibly sharp knife. While the meat cooks up nicely, it can be quite soft. The sharper your knife, the better.

When dredging the fillets, be sure to dedicate one of your hands to the dry portions of the process and the other to the egg portion. This will keep things cleaner and help prevent you from developing “club-hand.” Better yet, use a pair of tongs.

Basil can be added to the sauce for an extra layer of flavor. If you go this route, simply chop the basil as your fish are cooking and stir it into the sauce shortly before service.

Oil temperature is the key to the best results. If the oil is too hot, the fish won’t cook properly. If it’s not hot enough, the crust will take too long to crisp and the end product will be greasy. While I would love to give you a specific oil temperature for reference, it is going to vary based upon the thickness of your fillets and coating.

To overcome this, I suggest working in small batches. These are often like pancakes. The first one might be so-so but, if you adjust the temperature and cooking time correctly, the rest will be right on the money.

Smoked turkey rillettes recipe

I was introduced to the concept of rillettes while watching a cooking show. This simple spread is a play on that and a great way to get rid of holiday leftovers or a fun method of sharing a successful harvest with guests after the hunting season.

Smoked turkey rillettes recipe

  • 2-1/2 Tbsps. Cream
  • 1/2 stick Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Smoked turkey, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Onion, diced
  • Sliced green olives or pickled onions (optional)

Step 1: Place cream and butter in a small sauce pan or saucier and place on stove top over low heat until melted.

Step 2: Place turkey and onion in a food processor and pulse until combined.

Step 3: Allow your food processor to run and slowly stream-in the cream and butter mixture. Spin until the spread reaches your preferred texture.

Step 4: Transfer mixture to a covered bowl and place in the fridge until cooled.

Step 5: Spread over crackers or toast points. Top with sliced green olives or pickled onions, if desired.

Tips and substitutions

Turkey breasts are my go-to cut for this application. But any portion of the turkey will do. A mixture of dark and white meat yields a deeper flavor.

If you want to add another flavor element to this spread, I have found success with paprika or dill. If I go with the dill, I forgo the olives or pickled onions. I strongly recommend using one of the three, though. It adds another layer of flavor complexity.

After a couple days in the fridge, you may find the rillettes beginning to dry out. This can be fixed my adding a little cream and stirring.

How to think (and cook) like a venison scavenger

The chest freezer in my garage is chock-full of venison. But I didn’t harvest a single deer this season.

How is that possible? Well, it’s actually quite simple. In lean seasons, I’ve learned to replenish my yearly supply of deer meat meat by perfecting the art of cooking parts of the deer most of my hunting companions don’t want or have never considered cooking themselves.

While that may sound less than appetizing, I can promise you that some of the lesser-known portions of meat can be turned into downright delicious table fare.

Last year, during a Netflix binge, I got hooked on the show “MeatEater.” While the subject matter of the hunting adventures is enthralling, I was most taken with host’s desire to utilize every last piece of meat on the animals he harvested.

Taking a life is a big deal. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that getting the most out of each kill was simply the responsible thing to do. So I started scouring the internet for recipes in advance of the deer season.

Thankfully for me, many of my friends enjoyed a deer season that was much more successful than my own and they didn’t mind parting ways with the “extras.” Admittedly, I encountered very little competition when requesting some of these pieces of meat. But, with the success I found in the kitchen, I think that may be about to change. Here are a few of my go-tos and some ideas about how you can start using them too:

Ribs

Like, many hunters, I never invested the time to take the ribs out of my deer. While I have long been curious about what they would taste like, it seemed likely they would be tough. And, frankly, the amount of meat didn’t seem worth the effort.

This changed after I saw Steven Rinella prepare a rack of venison ribs on MeatEater. In fact, I even used his recipe during my first venture.

The key is cooking them low and slow. Braising is an ideal method for yielding the most tender results. If you give these ribs the time they deserve, you will be pleased with the outcome.

Though not the same as beef or pork, these venison ribs are surprisingly tender. The dry rub provides a classic barbecue taste.

Though you can eat them the traditional way, I suggest taking the meat off the bone to simplify things.

Leftovers can be covered in barbecue sauce and served on a quality bun with some coleslaw. It’s a cool play on a pulled venison sandwich.

Heart

This one takes a little courage. But trust me, once you’ve had properly-prepared venison heart, you’ll never leave the ticker in your gut pile ever again.

On the suggestion of Rinella, I used this recipe for my initial voyage into deer heart territory.

Allowing ample time for the marinade to take effect is crucial. It’s well worth the wait.

The strips of meat chew more like beef than venison. In fact, I’d say it tastes more like a skirt steak than a venison product.

I decided to pan-fry the strips, rather than grilling them. In hindsight, I would also recommend using a meat tenderizer to get an even softer mouth feel.

Now, I’ll admit, it takes a minute to get over exactly what you are eating. But the flavors are wonderful.

You can serve as directed in the recipe or put them into warm tortillas with cheese and more vegetables to create some awesome fajitas.

Liver

This may be my European heritage showing itself, but I love liver pâté. But, for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to make a batch with deer liver.

Finding a good recipe was pretty easy.

My first batch had me instantly regretting every liver I have ever left in the woods. The full-bodied flavor provided by the onions, bourbon, and the natural taste of the venison makes for a powerful spread.

I strongly suggest letting your pâté sit in the fridge for at least a day before you dive-in.

While the end results aren’t much to look at, they are wonderful on crackers or toast.

If you want to go really old-school, there are plenty of awesome recipes for straight up venison liver and onions (like this one).

Neck

Venison neck roasts are a lot like the ribs.

For starters, many hunters don’t take the time to collect the meat. But that’s also because many hunters just don’t know how to prepare it.

Adding the neck meat to your scrap pile just doesn’t do it justice.

Instead, just go low and slow. With the proper time and preparation, venison neck roast can be fall-apart tender. You need to try it for yourself.

How to make pepper nuts – the ultimate outdoor cookies

Pepper nuts (or pfeffernuesse) cookies are a fixture in my bag when I’m in the woods pursuing fur-bearing animals. These crunchy cookies are a German holiday specialty. For some notes and potential substitutions, scroll down to the bottom of the recipe.

Pepper nut recipe

  • 1/2 cup Molasses
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1/4 cup Shortening
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsps. Powdered star anise
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 3/4 cup White sugar
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. White pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt

Step 1: Add molasses, honey, butter, and shortening to a small sauce pan or saucier over medium heat. Stir frequently until melted. Remove pan from burner and allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Then, add the eggs.

Step 2: In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Once combined, slowly add the mixture from the pan you set aside and continue stirring.

Step 3: Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator for a minimum of two hours.

Step 4: When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 325° F and grease your cookie sheets.

Step 5: Roll dough into thin logs and then cut into roughly one-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a small ball and place on cookie sheet.

Step 6: Bake for 13-15 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Background

I was first introduced to these cookies a few years ago during gun deer season. The landowner offered some up during lunch and explained that these bit-sized treats are a family recipe. He was kind enough to pass that recipe along to me.

Besides the subtle sweetness, what draws me to these cookies is how durable they are. I can put some in my pocket while out on a squirrel hunt or put a bag of them in my deer hunting backpack without having to worry about them breaking or crumbling. Food just tastes better when it’s enjoyed outdoors and these crunchy cookies are a perfect snack. When the weather gets colder, they pair perfectly with a thermos of coffee.

As I have researched these treats I’ve come to find there are countless ways of preparing them. Each family seems to have their own approach.

In that spirit, over time, my mom and I have both made our own versions of these cookies (mine is the one listed above).

Tips and substitutions

This recipe yields roughly 10 dozen cookies, making it ideal for sharing.

If you are flying solo on most of your hunts, halving the recipe is certainly an option. Though, we have found that these cookies will keep in the freezer if you have extras.

To make sure I get the crunch I’m looking for, I move the cookies to the top rack of my oven during the last two minutes of baking.

Due to the lack of moisture, these won’t get “stale,” per se. I even leave mine on the counter overnight to let the air get at them. This helps solidify the texture I desire.

Now, this brings us to the potential substitutions. Many pepper nut recipes I’ve seen include some form of dairy. The original version I was given included buttermilk. Some have a few splashes of cream. It’s all about what you’re after.

If you want something a little softer, I recommend the addition of dairy and shortening the baking time slightly.

While this recipe features a multitude of spices, you can simplify or expand on them. Cardamom can be a wonderful addition. Some recipes substitute black pepper for white pepper. Others forgo the molasses.

For added sweetness, you can dust the warm cookies with powdered sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.

Play around with it, that’s part of the fun.

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