Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salmon Dietary Challenge

I had a very interesting Dutch oven cooking challenge this last week. My family and I have been traveling cross-country to visit my parents in Indiana. My folks are getting a bit "on in years" and we came out to visit and help out.


Mom, especially, has been quite thrilled by the book, and so, Jodi encouraged me to bring a Dutch oven out with us so I could cook for them one night. We all decided it would be great to do it in celebration of my dad's birthday. The tricky part is, both Mom and Dad have some quite specialized dietary needs. Mom gets sores in her mouth, so she can't eat things that are too acidic, or even too salty. Neither of them can have foods that are too fatty, and Dad can't have too much sodium (the salt thing again).

For his birthday, Dad chose salmon.


So, here are my parameters:

  • 1 - a salmon dish, with small portions.
  • 2 - Little or no salt
  • 3 - for Mom, little or no acidic flavors
  • 4 - Little oil or fats.
  • 5 - Still have it be flavorful and visually appealing.
  • 6 - Do it all in only one Dutch oven

That all added up to quite a challenge. I tackled the challenge and came through nicely.  I baked a loaf of swirled bread. Then I roasted some potato chunks and finally cooked the salmon pieces atop the potatoes. The fish was served topped with a salad of fresh sweet peppers and other veggies.

As I cooked it, however, and as I thought about it afterward, I thought of how I could have made it even more flavorful and robust, and have stayed better in the parameters. Here's that plan:


Dietary Challenge Dutch Oven Salmon

12" shallow Dutch oven

15-18 coals below

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 sweet peppers, different colors
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 stalks celery
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter

22-24 coals below

  • 4-5 portions salmon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Liberal shakes of thyme, sage, cilantro
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper

10-12 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 6-8 small red potatoes 
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper 
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1 Tbsp butter

The first step is to light up the coals and get the Dutch oven ready to sauté the veggies.  Get the dutch oven really hot. While that is heating up and readying, dice up the veggies and mince the garlic.  My idea is to sweeten the onions and tame and enrich the flavors of the veggies by sautéing them in butter.  Start with the onions and the garlic.  Once they're translucent, add the peppers. Finally, add the celery and tomatoes. Once the veggies are done (and I'd go until there is some carmelization on the onions), pull them out of the Dutch oven and set them aside.


While the veggies are cooking, season the salmon with the flavorings, and quarter the potatoes (I leave the skin on). 

Then, refresh the coals, and get the Dutch oven really hot again, still using just bottom heat. Really turn up the heat. Melt the butter on the bottom of the Dutch oven, then put the salmon filets on. It should sizzle and sear instantly. After a minute or two, turn them over and let the other side sear. Let each side get a good brown going on.  Since you won't have a lot of salt to carry the flavor, you'll use the sear and the herbs instead.

When the salmon is nicely brown, but not necessarily cooked all the way through, pull it off. Melt the last of the butter and toss in the potatoes, with their seasonings. Stir it all up, to evenly coat everything. Adjust the coals for a 350 degree bake, and set the oven on the heat.

After about ten minutes, the potatoes will be starting to cook through, but not done yet. Layer the salmon pieces on top of them, and the sautéed veggies on top of the salmon. Bake it for another 10-15 minutes.

And there you'll have it! A delicious, flavorful meal, with relatively little fat and sodium, and little acidic flavors, all cooked in a single Dutch oven.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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