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For a romantic Valentine's Day dinner at home, a recipe that doesn't tie you down in the kitchen

The first decision that needs to be made on Valentine’s Day is: Eat in or go out? Since you are checking out this article and recipe, I‘m thinking that you (like me!) are of the stay-home-and-cook persuasion.
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This October 2021 photo shows a recipe for crispy skinned salmon with dill sauce in New York. Pair your fish with a cool and creamy dill sauce and a couple of simple sides, and you have a restaurant-worthy meal in the comfort of home. (Cheyenne Cohen via AP)

The first decision that needs to be made on Valentine’s Day is: Eat in or go out? Since you are checking out this article and recipe, I‘m thinking that you (like me!) are of the stay-home-and-cook persuasion.

So the next decision is a more involved one – what to make? Something special but not complicated. A meal that traps you in the kitchen for hours kind of defeats the purpose of making dinner for your Valentine. And it can’t involve a lot of pots and bowls — romance and a sinkful of dishes are not a great pairing.

This recipe for Crispy-Skinned Salmon with Dill Sauce fits the bill.

THE MENU

One of my favorite things to order in a nice restaurant is a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with a crispy skin. The crackling exterior contrasting with the pink, tender fish — perfection. And luckily, it’s a very doable dish to make at home!

Pair your fish with a cool and creamy dill sauce and a couple of simple sides, and you have a restaurant-worthy meal in the comfort of home. Suggested sides include roasted cauliflower, a simple green lettuce salad, or roasted asparagus and a couscous salad.

THE TABLE

Now take a few minutes to focus on the setting of your intimate dinner. Few things make a meal feel more special than a lovely table set with cloth napkins, pretty glassware and the “good” plates. Do pick up some flowers: You don’t need two dozen long-stemmed roses to set the mood, but a colorful bunch of tulips goes a long way toward amping up the romance factor.

And if the kids are around? Or you’re a more-the-merrier type of V-Day celebrant? Double the recipe.

Love and food are meant to be shared.

SOME RECIPE TIPS

The sauce will last for a few days in the refrigerator, though it might start to separate a bit as it sits. Just give it a good stir before serving.

This recipe will make more dill sauce than you’ll need, but it makes a great dip for carrots and celery, or cooked shellfish.

Other sauces that go nicely with Crispy-Skinned Salmon: Creamy Cilantro Sauce, Horseradish Sauce, Remoulade Sauce and Tartar Sauce.

As for the salmon, make sure it has its skin when you buy it. The skin should be silver and shiny without any discoloration or tears. The fish should look moist, firm and fresh, and have no discernible odor.

When you place the salmon in the hot pan, set it skin side down. Direct contact with the oiled hot pan is what enables the skin to crisp up beautifully. Give the filets a little shake as you lay them in the pan so that the oil coats the bottom of the fish, and it doesn’t stick to the pan.

The basic adage for how long to cook fish is 10 minutes per inch, which is a good guideline to begin with no matter how you are preparing the fish: in a pan, on a grill, poaching, roasting, broiling, etc. But this is just a starting point, and not a firm rule.

Medium rare salmon should be a bit translucent in the center but opaque on the top, and the internal temperature should register between 120° and 125°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Medium will be a bright dark pink in the center but not quite translucent. An internal temperature will read between 125° and 130°F.

Medium-well will be opaque pink throughout. The temp will be around 130° to 135°F.

CRISPY-SKINNED SALMON WITH DILL SAUCE

Serves 2

For the Dill Sauce:

1/2 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

3 to 4 teaspoons whole milk

Juice and finely grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon finely minced garlic or garlic powder

¼ teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill (do not use dried dill here)

In a medium bowl combine the sour cream, milk, lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, sugar, and salt and pepper. Mix well to blend and loosen the sour cream. Stir in the minced dill. Let sit at room temperature while you cook the fish.

For the Salmon:

2 (6 to 8-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Place the salmon (in batches if necessary) skin side down in the pan, giving the filets a little shuffle so they don’t stick. Then cook without moving the fish for about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan. Let the salmon cook for another 3 to 8 minutes or so until is it cooked to your liking. The bottom skin should be browned and crispy, and the middle of the salmon should have a bit of dark pinkness inside. If you prefer your salmon cooked through, then give it another minute or two. Remember, the salmon will continue to cook a bit once removed from the heat.

Serve hot or warm with the dill sauce.

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Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.

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For more AP food stories, go to https://apnews.com/hub/recipes

Katie Workman, The Associated Press