Dads who aspire to awesomeness need to know how to make dinner. The old saying about how the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach applies equally in the other direction! Cooking is not quite as sexy as running the vacuum cleaner. But almost. Not sure why, but hey.

(The only thing sexier than running the vacuum cleaner is having the cojones to buy tampons — but that’s for another post.)

So the other day one of my friends, Jamie, posted a recipe for Sweet Chili Salmon on her blog and it looked so good I decided I’d have to try it out.

Sweet Chili SalmonJamie’s recipe is pretty simple, and that makes it a good one especially for new-to-the-kitchen dads. If you follow the recipe you’ll do alright. That said, whenever I try out a recipe for the first time, I always make some notes so the next time I’ll be on the lookout for any dicey (pun intended) spots.

So here are my notes:

  1. This recipe calls for marinating the salmon. Which means you have to allow an extra 20 minutes when you’re calculating time from start to dinner. In all, including the 20 minutes for marinating time, you’ll be about 45 minutes from start to finish.
  2. When you get salmon filets, you’ll have much better results if you take the time to de-bone them. The bones won’t really hurt if you miss one. It’s not like serving undercooked chicken where you’ll probably send someone to the hospital if you do it wrong. But de-boned fish makes for a much better dining experience. I keep a pair of tweezers handy in the drawer next to the sink. Run your finger along the thickest part of the filet and you’ll feel the hard little bone ends poke out about every ¼ inch along the center. Gently press the meat next to the bone to expose the end, grab it with the tweezers and give it a gentle tug.
  3. The recipe calls for lemon zest. For the novice, this is just a fancy word for the rind — scrape the lemon across a fine-mesh grater to flake it off into little filings, just the yellow part down into the white rind flesh.
  4. Step one in Jamie’s recipe calls for juice, which isn’t listed in the ingredients. I interpreted it to mean the juice of the half of the lemon you just “zested”. Just squeeze the juice into the bowl with the other ingredients.
  5. If you’ve got any little cuts on your hands when you’re handling the lemon it’s going to sting a little bit when you get lemon juice on them. It’s because lemon juice is basically citric acid with natural lemon flavoring. On the up side, your hands are going to be really soft after you’re done with this.
  6. Once you have the salmon marinating, you’ve got 20 minutes to kill before you can start putting it in the pan. I used my 20 minutes to make some Roasted Red New Potatoes to go on the side. You have just enough time! - Grab 3 Red New Potatoes per person. Rinse them off, pick off any stems and eyes, and cut out any bad spots. Then cut them in quarters and arrange them on a cookie sheet, skin-side down.
  • Melt some butter (allow 2 Tablespoons per 10 potatoes) and brush it onto each one. Then dust them with your favorite seasoning salt, Old Bay seasoning, or if your family is into spice, try a cabo chipotle rub.
  • Bake in a 350° oven for 15 minutes. (Which means that if you put them in when the salmon has 10 minutes left to marinate, they’ll come out just as the salmon is going on the plates.)
  1. Use the remaining marinating time to get the salad greens, lemon wedges (from the half of the lemon you didn’t zest and squeeze) on the platter and dash with your favorite salad dressing — not too much dressing!
  2. Make sure the pan is hot, but not red-hot — like on a scale of 1-10 if you have those kind of knobs, use a 7 or 8 — before you put the salmon in it! Two minutes per side as Janie says on the salmon. Maybe 2½ on the second side if it’s still really red in the middle. But you want the thickest part to still be slightly pink in the center when you take it off the skillet. Turn only once! If you keep playing with it after it starts cooking through, it’s going to start falling apart and looking like crap.

And the verdict from the family: Two thumbs up!

Again, a big thanks to Janie for the recipe.