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Do you "finish" salmon with olive oil?

  • r

I've never understood the logic of putting additional fat on a dish that is already fatty, like putting butter on a steak. I've been cooking salmon frequently and I know some people put olive oil on before serving. What's the point of adding extra fat?

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  1. Flavor. Why put salad dressing on a salad? Not to add fat but flavor.

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I wish this whole "fat is flavor" trope would go away. Fat can be a carrier for flavor, but most fats are actually very bland. Too much fat can mute flavors, which is why you skim fat from a stew such as boeuf bourguignon. Not for your health, but so it doesn't taste muddy.

      One thing fat does add is a richer mouthfeel. That can be important, but it is not the same thing as flavor. Olive oil does have flavor, but that is due to other compounds in an extra-virgin oil, not the fat itself (pure olive oil is bland). Taste unsalted butter or lard on their own. Bland. Fat is being added mostly for mouthfeel, and sometimes as a carrier for certain flavorful compounds in the other ingredients. And it can be overdone. It is not a the-more-the-better thing.

      1. re: MelMM

        I use unsalted butter and it does have flavor. I can taste the difference between some brands and keep several in my fridge. Same with oils - I have many and flavor is one of the reasons for the variety.

        Bland would be the last word I'd use for anything cooked in duck fat.

        Judicious use of a well chosen fat can be a very important component to a dish.

        1. re: MelMM

          Thank you. More fat is not always better.

      2. I like cold salmon with aoli but I don't oil hot salmon. But butter on steak yessir.

        1 Reply
        1. re: magiesmom

          I have a Meyer lemon olive oil that I love to drizzle a bit over fish.

        2. Cooking is not centered on logic but on flavor.

          Following your train of thought no one would add icing to cupcakes or cheese to a burger.....

          If you don't like it or want to then don't.

          1. it's for people who either
            1) don't have an appreciation of the actual flavor of the underlying ingredient
            or
            2) don't have a high quality underlying ingredient (i.e. freezer burned steak is more palatable when doused with grease. fish, past it's prime, can be salvaged by serving it covered with fat of some sort.)
            or
            3) don't really know how to cook to preserve/highlight the actual flavor of the food.

            63 Replies
                1. re: mcf

                  In that case, you have fish cooked in almost no fat at all. And the olive oil in the sauce is being used to carry the flavor of the herbs.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Yes, the OP asked why you would put fat on a dish that is already fatty. The dish in the video was not already fatty.

                      1. re: MelMM

                        Right.

                        I can't even imagine why that's a question. It's not about macronutrient breakdown, it's about saucing and/or flavoring.

                2. re: westsidegal

                  Seriously? You can have a high-quality piece of fish or meat and add a little flavor with a compound butter or finishing oil. Neither 1, 2 or 3 apply, sorry.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    " westsidegal about 3 hours ago

                    it's for people who either
                    1) don't have an appreciation of the actual flavor of the underlying ingredient
                    or
                    2) don't have a high quality underlying ingredient (i.e. freezer burned steak is more palatable when doused with grease. fish, past it's prime, can be salvaged by serving it covered with fat of some sort.)
                    or
                    3) don't really know how to cook to preserve/highlight the actual flavor of the food."

                    Yes, all those wonderful dishes I've had in Italy that were finished with a drizzle of olive oil were cooked by idiot chefs who were using inferior ingredients. I should write those restaurants for my money back.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      I'm sorry I didn't know enough to send back my morel risotto that the chef drizzled with a little truffle oil :)

                          1. re: mcf

                            Haha, i saw that and then forgot. My short term memory is so sad, especially this time of day.

                          2. re: chowser

                            Since we're citing Keller, from Bouchon:

                            "The primary techniques for Bouchon's beef bourguignon are those of refinement. That means skimming the stock thoroughly, removing all fat and particles, straining it well, and then removing the fat and vegetable particles from the the sauce. There will be fat from the searing of the meat, and this fat collects on the surface. It's these particles and fat that muddle flavor and dull the color and sheen of a stew."

                            So, yes, it is nice to add fat to certain dishes, but it is not a case of the more fat the better, or that all fat enhances flavor. Excess fat can muddy the flavor, and Keller recognizes that as much as anyone. It's about balance.

                              1. re: MelMM

                                It has nothing to do with anything. I eat high fat, I sauce or drizzle oil or butter on lots of stuff, melt cheese on it, etc.

                                But I hate the grease that collects on top of a braise, and I skim, then separate repeatedly before reducing the liquid to a delicious concentration with small dots of fat floated on it. I might also thicken with a beurre manie, though.

                                In contrast, I add butter, bacon and its fat, and cream to seafood stew for the silkiness and richness they add, and I use healthy fats from unpolluted sources. I see no reason not to from any perspective.

                                You're free not to, of course. But to suggest or agree that Keller, Childs and Ripert and pretty much all great chefs and home cooks are lacking skill or talent or taste buds because they add fat is kind of an unsupportable reach IMO.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  I have never suggested any such thing, nor do I say that I don't add fat to things that I think need it. My only point is that it isn't a the-more-the-better thing. There are times when fat enhances flavor, and there are times when it dulls flavor. It should be used appropriately. Fat does not equal flavor. It can enhance flavor. It is a carrier for certain fat-soluble compounds in some herbs, spices, and other ingredients. But in other cases, excess fat can make a dish unappetizing, and dull the flavors.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9783...

                                    That's your recommendation, right?

                                    You're going all straw man argument here. It has nothing to do with "the more the better" it's about the fact that there's no reason not to. The OP was objecting to adding fat where fat already is. For so many reasons fat *is* flavor.

                                    And different people have different sensory experiences for all sorts of good an scientific reasons.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      I "liked" that post, because I could see it would be a minority opinion here, but I think it is an opinion worth considering.

                                      I don't think the OP was objecting to anything. I think the OP was asking a legitimate question, out of genuine curiosity. I realize some on this post sensed something hostile in the OP, but I did not. I just don't see it.

                                      You may think that fat=flavor, but we disagree there, and always will. I think fat enhances other flavors, in certain, but not all, cases. Some seasonings have fat-soluble compounds that will be more apparent in the dish if there is fat present. (Other seasonings have water-soluble compounds that are not enhanced at all by fat). Fat also adds a mouthfeel that we tend to like. So used with care and knowledge, fat can improve the flavor of your food.

                                      My original comment was simply my own reaction to the inevitable fat=flavor comments here. Which I think are an oversimplification of something more complex. I wasn't even responding to the OP, but to this knee-jerk response we see whenever someone posts such a question.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                        "The research found that the areas of the participants' brains which are responsible for the perception of flavour -- such as the somatosensory cortices and the anterior, mid & posterior insula -- were significantly more activated when the non-fatty sample was tested compared to the fatty emulsions despite having the same flavour perception. It is important to note that increased activation in these brain areas does not necessarily result in increased perception of flavour or reward"

                                        This is really telling, because receptors activate when less of something is available, and become less efficient or less active when there is more of it, so they work less efficiently.

                                        Feedback; every receptor in the body adjusts activity based upon the abundance or lack of it of what engages it.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          "This is really telling, because receptors activate when less of something is available, and become less efficient or less active when there is more of it, so they work less efficiently."

                                          Do you have any citations for this? Because I certainly did not get that out of the article.

                                          1. re: MelMM

                                            Nope, it's just something I've learned about receptor activity over many years of reading about it. A sort of analogy is a flooded engine vs. one that's getting just enough fuel. Response vs. slow or no response.

                                        2. re: MelMM

                                          So you agree that those chefs lack skill, appreciation for good or fresh ingredients, etc?

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            No, and I have not said anything to indicate that. Really, I think you are extrapolating wildly from what I have actually said, and trying to make an argument where there is a minor difference of opinion.

                                            1. re: MelMM

                                              You recommended a post that stipulated 3 things.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I guess I did not realize that recommending a post means that I agree with every word of it, and all the assumed implications of those words by other readers. I already stated why I recommended the post, and have nothing else to say on the matter.

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                LOL :-)

                                                In punch list hell with a house full of painters and everything back under plastic and canvas.

                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    We have a non-working, antique, wall clock that is set at 5:03. So it IS five o'clock always at our house :)

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I need to get myself one of those.;-)

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        No, you don't :) We were visiting friends last year. It was about 430 and Tom asked me if we still had that clock. When I confirmed it, he suggested that it was martini time. You can 'use' our clock also :)

                                            2. re: MelMM

                                              your theory only works if you're talking about a spoonful of Crisco right out of the can.

                                              Other fats -- olive oil, duck fat, walnut oil, bacon fat, etc. -- most definitely DO have a flavor, and most assuredly DO add flavor to the dish.

                                      2. re: MelMM

                                        "it is not a case of the more fat the better, or that all fat enhances flavor"

                                        I don't know that anyone has said either. I sure didn't. The OP asked why add fat on fat and westsidegirl responded:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9783...

                                        If that's the case, then those chefs, according to the post, don't know the flavor, can't cook or are using inferior products. I don't think that's the case.

                                      3. re: chowser

                                        i never said that it isn't done.
                                        i never said that it isn't done by famous chefs.

                                        hell, when i first started cooking as a personal chef, i did it all the time myself.
                                        covering up oily/fatty food with more oil or fat is done all the time.
                                        after i really learned how to cook, and, more importantly, how to source top flight ingredients, i reduced the amount of added fat on everything substantially.
                                        it is the easiest chef's cheat: just douse a dish in fat and everyone will like it.

                                        any home cook can douse his/her output in fat and it will taste fine. doesn't require much to do this, thankfully, because i relied on this cheat myself when i started out.
                                        also, it doesn't require an accomplished chef to do this.
                                        any ham fisted human being can figure out this skill.

                                        i laugh at people who pay upwards of $20 for a side dish of pasta with red sauce that has butter as a major ingredient. doesn't mean that i wouldn't replicate the stuff if that's what they want to pay me to do,
                                        but my take on red sauce is one that has some EVOO and that's IT--saturated fat does nothing to enhance the flavor of top quality tomatoes.
                                        also, since pasta doesn't start out being fatty it's not like i'm pouring fat over an ingredient like good salmon that is already fatty.
                                        of course if the salmon has been overcooked to the point of being dry, this would be a perfect way to cover up the error.

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          You are the one who talks about "dousing" or "covering something up" in fat. Good cooks don't do that.

                                          It's all in the deets.

                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              Touché! Haha, thanks for an early morning chuckle

                                            2. re: westsidegal

                                              No on ever said the words "douse" or "pour" until you. The word most used has been "finish" which most of us have taken to mean a drizzle or the equivalent. Big difference.

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  It's fascinating how some posters take a subject and totally misconstrue it to fit their own agenda so they can come off looking "superior."

                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    <<It's fascinating how some posters take a subject and totally misconstrue it to fit their own agenda so they can come off looking "superior.">>

                                                    Uh Oh! Someone notify the mods! Flag ttommyy's post! He just posted something that was off-topic! There are strict, arbitrary and capricious rules governing off-topic posts on this thread. o_O

                                                    1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                      No big deal. I've had my fair share of posts pulled. :)

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  laugh at people who pay upwards of $20 for a side dish of pasta with red sauce that has butter as a major ingredient. doesn't mean that i wouldn't replicate the stuff if that's what they want to pay me to do,
                                                  but my take on red sauce is one that has some EVOO and that's IT--saturated fat does nothing to enhance the flavor of top quality tomatoes.

                                                  ***have you ever had the spaghetti with tomato and basil at Scarpetta? they "finish" with some butter... being of Italian heritage I thought "how good can it be?"
                                                  It was DELICIOUS!
                                                  You can laugh at me all you want...
                                                  (p.s. knowing where/when/how much fat to use is most certainly NOT a cheat... it's a skill)

                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                Well, Italy is known for lacking focus on quality and freshness of ingredients and lack of skillful chefs and home cooks, right?

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  TOTALLY agree with #1. I like food to taste like what it is.

                                                  1. re: letsindulge

                                                    So, do you put butter on a baked potato?

                                                    1. re: letsindulge

                                                      Do you put dressing on a salad? Ketchup on a burger? Mustard on a hotdog? Mayo or an aioli on a sandwich? Finishing a dish with olive oil is the same idea. The olive oil is used like a condiment. In Italian, the action is called "condire" and it means "to dress." This is a very common practice in Italian cooking (and other cuisines) and has long been used in the American way of cooking by many restaurants and now more and more by home cooks.

                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                        I understand why condiments appeal to some people, but I think coating something that's inherently flavorful with butter or olive oil is a lazy person's way to add flavor. It can be guilding the lily. Herbs and spices can be used to add flavor, too. You can make anything taste good if you throw enough butter or oil on it. I know chefs do it all the time, but it seems to me there are other ways that might actually let the flavor of the underlying food come through more distinctly. I don't put oil on salmon. I have made halibut poached in olive oil, and frankly, I didn't think the results were all that amazing. Poaching in an herb-scented broth works just as well for me.

                                                        1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                          How about butter with lobster or crab?

                                                          Not once have I ever thought to add butter to make something ho hum taste better.

                                                          1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                            "I understand why condiments appeal to some people, but I think coating something that's inherently flavorful with butter or olive oil is a lazy person's way to add flavor."

                                                            No one is "coating" anything. Finishing with olive oil is pretty much understood to be a drizzle. Thanks for calling me lazy; at least I am in good company with Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, hundreds of chefs all over Italy, and many , many more chef's worth their salt.

                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                              Speaking of worth their salt... I even add salt to my dishes, talk about lazy. Mind you, it's just a small amount and I don't dump a bunch on it (just to clarify since "finish" is being exaggerated, too).

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                Chowser, I have a whole set of finishing salts...
                                                                Fleur de sel
                                                                Himalayan Pink
                                                                Cyprus Flake
                                                                I even have a smoked salt (that I'm not that fond of actually)
                                                                I guess using salt to finish something I've made is a lazy cheat too?

                                                                1. re: cgarner

                                                                  I think that I have the same set of salts, cgarner, from Salt Works in square bottles with cork stoppers? I'm just crazy about the Cyprus flakes, although I don't use them to finish anything. I sprinkle a few flakes in my palm and eat them one by one! (Not often, but sometimes I get an intense sodium craving). These are by far my favorite salts from the set, and I keep them hidden in my kitchen. LOL.

                                                                  1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                    (shuuh)-love a secret hidden gem in my kitchen
                                                                    I hide things too-the letters usually start with choc

                                                                    1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                      Mrs. Patmore, I think that is the set. My mother gave them to me as a gift. I thought the smoke flavor of the smoked salt was more "burnt" and overpowering but the rest of the salts are wonderful (the Cyprus Flake is my favorite!)

                                                                    2. re: cgarner

                                                                      Exactly. A good cook judiciously uses enhancers. It doesn't mean dousing.

                                                                    3. re: chowser

                                                                      Salt is important in balancing flavors

                                                              2. re: letsindulge

                                                                So all you do is cook food plain, no seasoning, salt, pepper?

                                                                1. re: letsindulge

                                                                  Me too. When I put some Irish butter on a fresh blueberry muffin, it tastes like butter and berries and muffin. Delicious.

                                                              3. no, i finish my salmon with sesame oil.