Aioli and the Art of Broiling

How does one use the broiler without setting off the fire alarm or, as was the case last night, catching dinner on fire?  If there is an art to broiling, I don’t have it.  My attempts all end with an open window, a fan, and waving a dish towel in front of the smoke detector.

Here was our intended menu, and more or less what ended up on the table last night:

Broiled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Aioli

Quinoa with Cranberries and Almonds

Sauteed Green Beans

I started with an enormous piece of fish;  I took a photo of it with my hand for comparison:


After cutting it into more reasonably sized fillets, I put it back on this aluminum foil lined pan, with salt and pepper and  just a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.  (Question: because salmon is so oily anyway, is the olive oil necessary?  Perhaps it was part of the problem…)

I turned on the broiler.  I placed the pan with the salmon on a rack about six inches from the top of the oven.  I set the timer for 3 minutes (just 3 minutes!)  When the timer beeped I grabbed an oven mitt, opened the oven, and smoke billowed out.  I reached in to pull out the pan, and Fwooosh! (<–That’s the sound salmon fillets make when they catch on fire.)  I pushed the pan back into the oven and closed the door.

What did I do wrong?  Was it the olive oil?  Too close to the top of the oven?  Too hot (550 degrees)?

Once I’d dealt with the fire, I decided to bake the salmon the rest of the way–450 degrees on the middle rack.  Much safer. 🙂  From that point the fillets took about 10 minutes to finish cooking, and thankfully turned out pretty well.

Now, about that aioli.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve seriously disliked mayonnaise.  Perhaps it began in childhood, eating ham sandwiches with mayo on the beach and having grains of sand blow into them as I took a bite.  Who knows?  I hated it as a kid, and as I grew up I saw no point in trying it again, as it is a fairly nutritionally-void food.

However, mayonnaise has recently crept into my life in the form of aioli.  It’s basically a fancy mayonnaise, with added herbs or spices.  Some restaurants serve a variety of aiolis instead of ketchup with their french fries, and I love it.  I hate that I love it, but I love it nonetheless.  I even put mayonnaise on a sandwich while visiting my sister earlier this month, and I liked it… I liked the whole thing!

With this new found appreciation for mayonnaise, I decided to make a lemon-herb aioli to go with the salmon last night.  We had some rosemary and sage left over from this meal, so I chopped them finely and mixed them into a small bowl of mayo with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The final product:

salmon and quinoa salmon and quinoa2

We cooked the quinoa in the rice cooker with low-sodium chicken broth, then added Craisins and sliced almonds at the end.  The green beans were frozen, and we put them in a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Easy and delicious.

The salmon emerged from the fire relatively unscathed.  The skin was crispy, but Andrew tells me that’s something to strive for in the culinary world. 😉

Even with the fire incident, this meal was on the table in 30 minutes.  Not bad for a Wednesday night!

Do you have any broiling tips that could keep me from setting off the smoke detector next time?

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