Food and Drink

Give your salmon dinner a kick with this quick butter trick

Fishing season’s just winding down, but salmon dinner season is in full swing. When I get home from work to find a thawed fillet waiting in the fridge, my latest quick dinner plan is salt, pepper, a perfect medium-rare grill and a hit of compound butter that I have pre-made and waiting. Dinner can be on the table in 20 minutes or less, depending on the sides.

My freezer is full of reds and, in my experience, on a medium temp grill it takes six to seven minutes to cook a fillet the way I like it, with just a little oval of translucent flesh in the center of the thickest part. It finishes cooking on the plate once I take it off the heat, leaving it a perfect medium rare. (By medium grill, I mean one that you can hold your hand over for 15 seconds without getting burned. If you have a thermometer, it would measure roughly 350 degrees.) You can also put the fish under the broiler for about the same amount of time.

Next: I hit it with compound butter, which, for the amount of effort it takes to make, delivers a miracle of satisfying flavor, salt and fat. The kids like it on their rice and bread, too, so maybe make a little extra.

I make the butter and store it in a jar in the fridge, where it keeps from a couple of weeks to a month, depending on the ingredients. Lately I’ve been rocking some nostalgic weeknight fish dinner flavors from my Alaska childhood: Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning and a nice sea salt-dill-lemon mixture that pleases a crowd. But you can try: thyme and Meyer lemon zest, Thai chile and lemongrass paste (finish it with fresh cilantro), shallot and tarragon, lemon juice, garlic and Tabasco, Yoshida’s sauce or Sriracha sauce. The combinations are kind of endless — experiment with about 2 tablespoons of spice or up to 4 tablespoons, combined, of fresh herbs, citrus and savory ingredients.

Salmon butter

Each 8-tablespoon recipe is enough for three red salmon fillets, between 1 and 2 pounds each

Creole butter

8 tablespoons (one stick) salted butter, room temperature


2 tablespoons Creole seasoning

Lemon-dill butter

8 tablespoons (one stick) salted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Zest of one lemon

½ teaspoon sea salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a wooden spoon, stir seasoning into the butter until well combined. Spoon into a jar and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks when using fresh herbs, and six weeks when using a spice mix only.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently a guest curator at the Anchorage Museum.