What's The Best Side To Pair With Salmon? We Asked An Expert

Fish for dinner? There may be an uptick in interest during the Lenten season, at least among adherents of the Roman Catholic faith who are obligated to abstain from meat on Fridays, but the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we all eat half a pound of the stuff every week. Of all the fishies in the sea, salmon is one of the most popular varieties. For this reason, MegaMenu spoke with Sean Olnowich, culinary director of Ketchy Shuby and one-time James Beard honoree, to ask him what goes well with salmon.

Olnowich likes to cook salmon in a simple manner, seasoning it with salt and pepper and pan-frying it in oil. He then makes a pan sauce he describes as "brown butter mixed with the natural juices the salmon releases." This fish alone does not a meal make, and Olnowich goes on to say, "One of the best sides to pair with salmon is braised lentils." His personal preference is for a fancy kind called black beluga, which he cooks in chicken broth with sherry vinegar, cumin, and a mixture of sauteed, finely chopped carrots, celery, and onion. As he tells us, "The lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients." That is also true of the humble brown ones at the supermarket, although they won't look quite so caviar-like. (Beluga lentils are named for their resemblance to the über-pricy fish eggs.) He also notes that the vinegar brings "brightness and acidity [that] perfectly contrast with the richness of the salmon."

Not a lentil fan? Here are some other great salmon sides

The next time you have a piece of salmon and are wondering how to cook it, you could go with a simple pan-sear a la Olnowich, or explore one of the dozens of salmon recipes we've rounded up for you. If you like the idea of lentils as a side, we also have lentil recipes you might like to try, ranging from coconut red lentil dal to lentil and spinach salad. If you don't care for the taste of these little legumes, though, or you'd rather avoid some of the unfortunate side effects of eating lentils (they can make you quite gassy), many other sides go equally well with the fish.

Asparagus is often paired with salmon, perhaps because its grassy bitterness also helps to offset the rich and fatty fish. Sourness, too, works to counteract heaviness from the salmon or any buttery sauce you might serve it with — while Olnowich goes with vinegar-sauced lentils, a vinegary or citrusy dressing on a green salad would also do the trick. If you opt to use escarole as the base for that salad, you could have both bitter and sour flavors going on at the same time. Starchy sides, too, can be paired with salmon as they're the universal go-with, but even here you can introduce a little tang by serving fries with malt vinegar, lime-cilantro rice, or angel hair pasta tossed with lemon butter.