This recipe is made to work with fish straight out of the refrigerator, so don’t worry if you forget to take it out ahead of time to come to room temperature — the few minutes of toasting the chiles and heating the pan will be plenty of time. And for the vinaigrette, use whatever vinegar, alliums and garnish-y greens you have. Don’t sweat the heat of the chile flakes in the vinaigrette either; the vinegar tames their bite so, whether you’re a chile head or spice wimp, you’ll be able to handle their heat.
From the story: Don’t touch your salmon to get the crispiest skin
Remove the salmon fillets from the fridge and their packaging and place them, skin side down, on paper towels.
Add the chile flakes to a large nonstick skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, swirling the skillet and tossing the chile flakes, until warmed through and fragrant and the seeds are starting to turn light brown at their edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chile flakes to a bowl and reserve the skillet. Pour the vinegar over the chile flakes and let steep while you cook the salmon.
Return the skillet to medium heat. Turn the salmon fillets over and brush the skins with some oil. Season the salmon all over with salt, then add to the skillet, skin side down. Cook, without touching, until the fillets are half-cooked, about 10 minutes. Take this time while the fish is cooking to mince your shallots.
Add the butter to the skillet and, as soon as it melts, tilt the skillet gently away from you just so the butter pools enough for you to spoon it up. Spoon the butter over the salmon repeatedly until the salmon is opaque and cooked to medium doneness, 2 to 3 minutes. To test the doneness, press on the fillets; if they feel like a firm marshmallow in the center, they’re ready. You can also insert an instant-read thermometer lengthwise through the fillets and it should read around 125 degrees in the center. Using tongs, transfer the fillets to a plate, skin side up; reserve the skillet with the butter in it. Let the fish stand for 5 minutes, or while you finish making the vinaigrette.
Pour the chiles and vinegar through a sieve into a bowl and discard the chiles. (If you don’t have a sieve, use your spoon as a dam against the chile flakes while you pour the vinegar into the bowl.) Add the shallots to the vinegar and, if using, garlic and let stand for a couple minutes to allow the vinegar to remove their raw bite.
Without scraping the bottom of the skillet, pour the browned butter (about 2 tablespoons) into the vinegar mixture bowl along with 2 teaspoons of hot tap water and whisk to combine. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper and pour around the fillets on the plate to keep the skin crisp and flavor the fish. Garnish with your green herb of choice before serving.
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