This guest-worthy dinner of salmon and gnocchi in a quick butter and sage sauce is super fast and just uses two dishes to make (one to boil the gnocchi and one to sear the salmon and make sauce). Including a fail-proof way to make extra crispy pan-seared salmon.
Frank is a great cook, but you won’t be surprised to learn that he hardly ever gets a turn in the kitchen. Between developing recipes for Cook Smarts and writing this blog, I’m always in there cooking something and scribbling down notes. But if I give him a chance, he comes up with all sorts of gems. Like this perfectly cooked salmon that is super crisp and golden brown on both sides. And that’s because there is another thing that Frank is really good at – retaining cooking tips. This method of cooking salmon came from a long-ago issue of Bon Appetit . Once he started cooking our salmon this way, we’ve never gone back. Both sides of the salmon get a beautiful crust and the inside is tender and falls apart with a fork.
It’s also worth noting that gnocchi makes a truly fantastic weeknight dinner ingredient. Unlike pasta, gnocchi cooks super fast. Boil it for 3 minutes and it’s ready to go. Plus – who doesn’t love the pillowy nuggets of potato that are gnocchi?
Pan-Seared Salmon and Gnocchi Ingredients
- Salmon – Look for pre-portioned salmon filets or ask them to slice it into 4-6 oz portions at the seafood counter. We prefer a mild flavored salmon for this and usually ask the fishmonger for a recommendation. Skin on or off is fine.
- Gnocchi – These potato dumplings can be found in the refrigerated section or the pasta section at the grocery store. Many versions are gluten-free, so check the packaging if that’s what you need. Usually the package will give you precise cook times, but most are done as soon as they float up to the top of a pot of boiling water, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Sage – This fresh herb adds great savory flavor to the butter sauce. It has to be cooked in order to serve it – it’s great crisped in a bit of butter as in this recipe. Fresh thyme would also be delicious.
- Lemon – Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon over the finished dish! Citrus adds bright freshness to seafood.
How to Make Crispy Pan-Seared Salmon
- Pat the salmon until very dry with paper towels.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Place salmon, skin-side down (or on either side if using skinless salmon), in a room temperature nonstick pan with a thin layer of cooking oil. (This is the key. The pan should be room temperature – off the heat, allowing the skin to slowly warm up with the pan. With this slow warm-up, the salmon will not be prone to sticking, but using a non-stick pan that is approved for high heat will help to insure it won’t stick.)
- Place the pan over medium heat and cook the salmon, without moving it, until the skin is crisp and easily releases from the pan. (After it has cooked for ~5 minutes, gently nudge it with a spatula, until it easily slides around in the pan and is crisp on the bottom.)
- Turn the salmon with a spatula and increase the heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, pink-side down until the other side is golden brown and crisp and the salmon is cooked through. (It should flake easily with a fork.)
All of the components of this meal are freezer-friendly. Transfer the salmon to the refrigerator about 24 hours ahead of time to defrost. The gnocchi and butter / shallot / sage sauce can be used straight from the freezer.
- Salmon – Store the salmon filets (individually wrapped in plastic and then combined in a freezer zip-top bag) in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Gnocchi – If you buy gnocchi in the pasta section, it may be shelf-stable and can be stored in the pantry (check the packaging). Fresh gnocchi, purchased from the refrigerator section, can be stored directly in the freezer in the packaging it comes in. (We keep several of these in the freezer at all times for quick dinners.)
- Butter sauce – Melt the butter in the microwave and combine with chopped shallots and sage. Freeze in a small freezer-safe bag or jar.
Nonstick Frying Pan– A good nonstick pan is a necessity for cooking two things – fish and eggs.
Flexible Spatula- A spatula with a flexible base makes it easy to flip more fragile items like salmon filets.
- 16 oz Gnocchi (look for gluten-free if needed)
- 4 Salmon Filets (4-6 oz each)
- 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I use grapeseed or avocado)
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 4 leaves Fresh Sage, chopped
- 2 cloves Shallots, diced
- 2 tsp Lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
- Boil gnocchi according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, pat salmon filets dry with paper towels. Season it on both sides with some salt and pepper.
- Place salmon, skin-side down (or on either side if using skinless salmon), in a room temperature nonstick panwith a thin layer of cooking oil. (This is the key to crisp salmon - the salmon must be placed in a cool pan and then slowly brought up to heat.)
- Place the pan over medium heat and cook the salmon, without moving it, until the skin is crisp and easily releases from the pan. (After it has cooked for ~5 minutes, gently nudge it with a spatula, until it easily slides around in the pan.)
- Turn salmon with a spatula and increase heat to medium-high. Continue cooking until the side touching the pan is golden brown and crisp and the salmon is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more. (It should flake easily with a fork.)
- Transfer salmon to a serving platter and return pan to medium-high heat.
- Add butter until melted. Add gnocchi, sage, and shallots. Cook, stirring constantly, until shallots are golden brown and sage is crisp.
- Pour gnocchi and butter sauce over salmon. Squeeze lemon juice over top.
- Serve salmon and gnocchi with extra lemon wedges on the side.
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If you ever think your next trip to the grocery store is chaotic, just think to yourself that you could be at the store with us! Three kids, three carts, one stop at the Whole Foods cookie bar requiring that each girl remain in contact with her cookie at all times through check-out. Always an adventure.