Mustard & Panko Crusted Salmon Fillets

The crispy tilapia dish that I wrote about a couple weeks ago was a big hit with folks looking for easy weeknight recipes, so I thought I'd include another favorite!

Over the years on this blog I find that a lot of people tend to shy away from cooking fish due to fears of...well...I don't know what, really, but honestly, if you're looking for quick dinners, there is nothing quicker than fish. With just a little bit of seasoning and a few minutes on the stove, you've got a dinner that would rival any found on a restaurant menu both in deliciousness and price.

(Seriously, we went to dinner the other night at a restaurant that charged $28 for a pan-seared tiliapia and mashed potatoes. For serious?! I love restaurants, but I'm never going to pay them to make me something I could make at home in 7 minutes for 7 dollars.)

But I digress! This mustard & panko crusted salmon I'm showing you today is one of those dishes that looks fancy (it would be a great choice for a dinner party!), but which couldn't be any easier to prepare at home.

To make, salmon fillets are seasoned with salt and pepper, and then brushed with a good, spiced mustard I used a lovely and inexpensive whole grain Dijon from one of my favorite brands, Roland, but you can pick what you like; honey mustard would also add a lovely sweet and spicy element to the dish.

The mustard creates a sticky base that you can then plop right into a bowl of crunchy panko breadcrumbs (which I also season with salt, pepper, and a little paprika).

That's it in terms of prep work! You can even prep this much up to about 8 hours in advance and then cook it later; particularly helpful if you're making these for a large group.

To finish off the dish, you just heat up some oil in a skillet and plop the fillets panko-side down for 1-2 minutes until golden. Depending on the size of your skillet, do no more than 2 at a time so they have ample room to cook. Then flip and let cook for another 3-5 minutes (I like to let it go until the skin gets really crisp). If you like a "well-done" fish (vs medium or rare), let it cook for 5-7 minutes.

Voila! Dinner is ready!

This is lovely in the warm months served with a few lemon wedges and a side salad of cucumber and arugula (cucumber is brilliant with salmon). Or for something a little heartier, serve it on a bed of herbed quinoa, couscous, or rice pilaf.

Sometimes I like to add a little extra mustard to the plate for dipping, though really it's not even necessary as the salmon already packs so much flavor.

Substitutions and Other Ideas:
If you'd like, you can make a low-carb or gluten-free version of this dish by using almond meal or crushed pecans in place of the panko. And once you have this technique down, you can experiment by swapping out other creams in place of the mustard--try it with horseradish mayonnaise or ranch dressing. (Just please don't use ketchup. ;) You can also add other seasonings to the panko--finely minced fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, chili powder, turmeric, curry powder, etc.

I think this recipe works best with salmon because the flavor of the fish is really enhanced by the mustard, but any firm fish fillet would work too; try it with halibut, mahi-mahi, or Chilean sea bass. Choose whatever looks fresh and is on sale. (Don't know what to pick? Tell the fish guy your plans and have him suggest something.)

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Mustard & Panko Crusted Salmon Fillets
Serves 2, multiply as necessary
Print this Recipe
2 salmon fillets (6-8oz each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (also known as "Japanese style bread flakes")
1 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked paprika)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup good mustard (dijon, whole grain, yellow, honey mustard--use what you prefer)
Canola, grapeseed, olive, or coconut oil for cooking

Rinse the salmon fillets under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Season well on all sides with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.

In a shallow, wide bowl, whisk together the panko breadcrumbs with paprika, cayenne, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste a pinch of the breadcrumbs to make sure they're well seasoned and adjust accordingly.

Use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to spread a layer of mustard (about 1/4 thick) all along the top of each salmon fillet.

Place the salmon fillet mustard-side down in the breadcrumbs and press down until it is evenly coated then lay skin-side down on a platter while you repeat with other fillet.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. You want just enough oil to coat the entire bottom of the pan. Heat for 2-3 minutes or until the oil is hot and starts to shimmer/tremble. Place the salmon fillets in the hot oil, panko-side down, for 1-2 minutes or until the panko becomes golden brown (lift it gently on its side after a minute to check the color). It should release easily; if it doesn't leave it for another 20-30 seconds. Use a spatula to flip the fish onto the skin side and let cook for 3-4 minutes or until the skin is crisp and the narrower parts of the fish are fully opaque and flaky. (If you like a well-done salmon, let it cook for another minute or two.)

Remove from the skillet and serve immediately. Is also lovely at room temperature as part of a buffet.

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