Perfect Pan-Seared Salmon with 4 Ingredient Lemon Butter Cream Sauce
Pan-seared salmon that’s perfectly cooked and topped with a creamy lemon butter sauce. It’s seriously fancy enough for guests and easy enough for weeknights!
Game Changer. ?
Up until recently, the only way i’ve ever felt comfortable cooking salmon was it being wrapped in foil and bubbling away in the oven as far away from me as possible.
But you guys. I’m here to tell you I was wrong. Wrong for not embracing the many different ways to cook salmon. Pan-seared salmon has this amazing, beautiful crispness on the outside while still maintaining the moisture and flakiness of baked salmon. Plus there’s this whole thing about being able to control the doneness. And to tell you the truth, I feel a little fan-cy being able to control the level of doneness of my fish. I mean that’s saying something right? Expert level fish cooker, right here.
That’s not all. Then we drizzle on this stupid easy lemon butter cream sauce, which can I just say is soooo much easier than I make it sound when I say ‘lemon butter cream sauce’. It totally gives off this false impression that we actually know what we’re doing in the kitchen but really it’s as simple as reducing/combining 4 ingredients and calling it sauce. In additional to that [awesome] sauce, we’ve got roasted broccolini on the side and that makes this meal an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Fancy is as fancy does. ??
This pan-seared salmon dinner is brought to you by the low carb diet the Anees and I have recently embarked on. You may have seen my post of 31 low carb meals and thought, ‘hey now, what’s going on here’ and this. This is what’s going on. I’m going down this rabbit hole and trying to take you with me. But in all honesty, I just want us all to be ready for short-sleeve season. We’ll talk bikini when we get there. ??
But whether you are or aren’t onboard with this thing, pan-seared salmon needs to be on that table. I kept it simple and served it with a huge pile of roasted broccolini and for my non-dieting friends (so jelly of you), a fluffy cloud of garlic and/or cheddar mashed potatoes would be oh, so good, with this. Take a nice big bite for me, wouldja?
This recipe is partly inspired by all the seafood I consumed on our west coast trip earlier this year and partly inspired by the garlic butter baked salmon that i’ve already shared here on the blog. My recipe for garlic butter baked salmon starts with the reduction of lemon juice with a little minced garlic until the lemon juice is infused with the garlic flavor and reduces. We’re doing almost the same thing here.
We’re taking a whole ⅓ cup of lemon juice and reducing it down till it’s almost gone. Just let it bubble and simmer away until there’s almost none left in the pan. Then comes the cream. We’ll add in a generous ½ cup and continue to reduce the sauce. You want it to thicken up until it can leave a nice thick coating on the back of a spoon. Then we’ll add in cold butter with the heat set on low until it just melts away. This will help thicken the sauce further. And finally, hit it with a couple tablespoons of chopped herbs. Parsley and thyme are my go to, but play with this one. Use what you have and like. And that’s it for the sauce. Let it hang out on the lowest heat setting on your slowest burner while you pan-sear the salmon.
The salmon comes next. Combine a little salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder together in a small bowl. You want to do this before so each filet gets a little bit of everything. Then, hit the salmon with the seasonings, a nice big pinch on each side. Now let your pan get nice and hot. Take the time to do this, cold pan + cold fish won’t give you that nice sear your want. And then let it hang out. Don’t play with it, don’t try to flip it prematurely. Just stand back if you have to. This was the hardest part for me. ? So I like to pop the broccolini into the oven at this time. That way you’re nice and distracted.
Make sure to use a nice high-quality salmon for this recipe. I always preach wild-caught if/when possible. And though either will work for this recipe, I find that wild-caught salmon always produces better results. <– just one persons opinion! You don’t have to agree.
This dinner? 5 stars all the way. The sauce takes a little bit of patience and will require a few more minutes than we usually spend on sauce but it’s so worth it! There’s this zing of lemon then it smooths out with from cream. Gah! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I’m addicted to all that lemony zing.
This pan-seared salmon dinner? Make it tonight!
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup heavy cream (see notes)
- 4 tablespoons cold salted butter (cut into 16 cubes)
- 2 tablespoons chopped herbs (I like parsley and thyme)
- 5 (6 ounce) salmon filets
- 1 teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- olive oil
- 1 ½ - 2 lbs. broccolini (or fresh broccoli)
- Sauce: Heat the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and let the lemon juice simmer and reduce until you have about 1 tablespoon remaining, this will take approximately 5-8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the cream and whisk. You want to let the cream reduce for a few minutes or until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Turn the heat down to low, add in 2-3 small pieces of butter and whisk until it melts, do this slowly. Do not add all the butter at once. Continue to add in the butter until it's all gone. Stir in the herbs along with freshly cracked pepper and let the sauce sit on the lowest heat setting (so it just stays warm) until ready to serve.
- Broccolini: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. When hot, drizzle the broccolini with a quick swish of olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the broccolini out on a large baking sheet and roast for 5-7 minutes for al dente, and longer if you like it completely done.
- Salmon: In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of the salmon generously. Set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add in a quick swish of olive oil. Add 3 pieces of salmon to the skillet at let cook for 2-4 minutes on each side. It's difficult for me to tell you exact cooking time as this depends on the thickness of the filet. Make sure you feel for firmness, the salmon should gently spring back when pressed with index finger. For best results, use a fish turner to flip the fish. You may need to flip the fish to the side and cook for a couple seconds if your filet is thick. Set aside, repeat with second batch of salmon.
- Serve: Drizzle the warm lemon butter cream sauce on the salmon and on the broccolini too if you wish. Serve warm.
- Unsalted butter will also work, just add in a pinch of salt.
- This recipe has only been tested with heavy cream, please use your best judgement for substitutions (if there are any). I don't think half and half will work for this recipe. Milk will definitely not work. For best results, I suggest following the recipe exactly as written.
- For the herbs you can use just about anything you like! Dill always goes nicely with seafood so you can do that. Chopped basil/oregano are also good options!
- Use skin-on salmon or skin-off, either will work. I took the skin off for mine and left some on for the hubby, both work out well with this recipe.
IS THIS A GOOD CHOICE FOR YOU?
Nutritional facts assume you’d use 1/5th of the sauce on both the salmon and the broccolini. We didn’t. We had some of the sauce left over that I popped in the fridge and used in a different meal.