Ugh, Why Do Y’all Always Want to Cook Salmon?!

I recently did an open call on Instagram (@modestbread) to answer questions for basic and easy cooking techniques. I received a startlingly amount of questions about cooking salmon. At first, I made the joke that people shouldn’t be cooking salmon at all, which then prompted even MORE questions: “Why shouldn’t I cook salmon?!”

In short, I don’t cook salmon because I almost always try and buy local and wild fish. Local fish means it didn’t have to travel as far, so it will therefore be fresher and tastier! Salmon is best enjoyed on the coast it comes from, which is not the coast we live on. Instead, I often look for local basses (especially striped, aka rockfish), flounder, fluke, monkfish, trout, cod and redfish from New England — and take your pick for shellfish, we are in the mid-Atlantic!

If you insist on salmon, one must follow these three important rules:


Don’t go cheap.

But if cost is a factor, I always go for belly — it’s fatty, rich, and full of flavor. If you’re going for a more traditional cut — like a steak or a fillet — make sure you get pieces that are all the same size. A uniform thickness will ensure it cooks evenly. Go wild if you can; it has more vibrant color (bright red means delicious fish) and way more complex flavor (well, actual flavor opposed to it’s farmed counterpart). If you can’t get wild and fresh, get frozen. Truly. Wild and frozen is still infinitely better than farmed. OR, try a local fish like rockfish and follow all the following rules. Remember, local fish is tastier, more forgiving, and better for the planet! Pro tip: don’t buy fish on Mondays as wholesale markets are closed Sunday so you are absolutely getting older fish.



Do not remove the skin.

Skin is tasty! So when you’re cooking salmon, keep that skin on. It provides a safety layer between your fish’s tender flesh and a hot pan or grill, and it will also hold in the juices and help the fish cook more evenly. Always pat the skin down, salt right before you put in the pan, and cook fish skin side down over medium to medium high heat, and let it crisp up. It’s much easier to slide a fish spatula (and if you are serious about cooking fish, you should invest in one) under the salmon’s skin than under its delicate flesh.

If you are really anti skin, you can always scrape it away after cooking. But give it a try, the skin is full of flavor and good nutrition.




If you haven’t figured it out already, overcooking your salmon may be the biggest mistake of them all. The ideal time to remove salmon from the heat is just before it’s done, about 90 percent cooked, and then you can allow it to sit and carry over for a few minutes. The residual heat will finish the cooking process without overcooking it. If you have a thermometer, aim for 145 degrees (I go way less than that, but I buy very high quality fish, so I’m good with it). If you don’t have a thermometer, gently poke with your finger in the center of the fillet, seeing if it yields to flaky pieces. Remember you want tender and moist, not dry and sad.


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Head Janitor, Chef, and Proprietor | Stomping Ground
Nicole’s cooking style is rooted in, but not limited to, her love of southern biscuits and her diverse culinary upbringing. A military brat, she spent her childhood in the Chicago suburbs enjoying her great-grandmother Mae’s Lithuanian cooking. As a tween, she moved to Paulding County, Ga. where she begrudgingly fell in love with the charmingly perplex small towns of the Deep South. She fondly remembers grubbing on Martin’s biscuits, late-night Waffle House debauchery and cooking with her family. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Nicole started a marketing career at an art nonprofit in Atlanta. At 25 years old, she became the youngest executive at the local Atlanta NPR affiliate. Chasing her dreams, she moved to Alexandria, Va. where she took a short post in the Whole Foods marketing department. Realizing that cooking had been her true love all along, she began night courses at L’Academie de Cuisine. She completed her apprenticeship at Blue Duck Tavern where she was promoted to a line cook after graduation. From there, Nicole worked as a private chef for busy Washington D.C. executives and their families. As grown-ups tend to do, Nicole realized something about her childhood — the best parts were enjoying small town communities, cooking with her great-grandmother and sharing meals with family and friends. She opened Stomping Ground to build a safe and welcoming community around yummy, handmade food from local sources. As her first foray running her own kitchen, she has shamelessly hired better, smarter cooks to fill her kitchen and your bellies. Her great-grandmother’s recipes often appear on the Stomping Ground menu without advertisement and, no, she won’t tell you the secret ingredients. Nicole lives in Del Ray and won’t shut up about how much she loves living there.

If you wander down Del Ray’s, “The Avenue,” you won’t miss the farm-red building with a rustic fence bordering the patio. Stomping Ground opened two years ago and quickly became popular for its made-from-scratch biscuits and its neighborhood vibe. On weekends, excited guests line up before Stomping Ground opens hoping to be the first to get a just-out-of-the-oven biscuit or a fresh salad. Stomping Ground is mostly known for its fast casual breakfast and lunch but on Thursdays and Fridays they provide a full dinner service after 5:00pm. All meals are built from local, seasonal food that is organic whenever possible.

2309 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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