Summer is ending this Friday! Can you believe it? While I’m super excited for fall (yay boots!), I decided that I wanted to make the most of the last days of summer, so that meant using my apartment’s grill as much as possible until it gets too cold (and I get lazier than usual ahaha). And that’s how this Grilled Cheese-Stuffed Salmon with Grilled Romaine Salad recipe came about!
I recently made a trip to Costco and got my hands on two large gorgeous fillets of coho salmon. I generally bake salmon when I buy it, but in the spirit of summer, I figured I’d give grilling a shot! But I couldn’t stop at having just plain grilled salmon–that’s too plain and generic. It needs some kind of sauce or a topping or something! And, as you’ve probably seen on my Instagram account, I’m trying out the ketogenic diet, so I need more than just grilled salmon to meet my daily macros. Salmon is a pretty good protein full of omega-3 fatty acids, but on keto, I needed more fat.
Then I had an idea! Why not stuff some cheese in it? As far as I’m concerned, that’s the answer to all of life’s problems. But which cheese? Soft cheese? Hard cheese? Multiple cheeses?! When I was at Trader Joe’s last week, I was trying to find an alternative to brie because I wanted to try something new but still wanted to have something creamy and spreadable. The lady next to me in the cheese case suggested Saint-Andre cheese because “my daughter absolutely loves it!” Good suggestion, cheese lady, because I ended up liking the cheese a lot! Saint-Andre is similar to brie in that it’s super creamy and fatty, but it has been described as the more “intense” version of brie. It tastes rich and buttery like brie, but the rind has a stronger taste to me than the rind on brie. This is the cheese that would end up stuffed in my salmon. Salmon cooks relatively quickly on the grill, so I figured this cheese would be a good cheese to use since its high fat content would help it melt pretty quickly as it heated up.
But the salmon is fatty and cheese is fatty–I needed something else to balance out the richness. I stared at the contents of my fridge for a bit then decided on two things: lemon and chimichurri sauce. Lemon is a classic topping for salmon dishes, but to elevate it a little more, I chose to grill the lemon since that would add some additional char to help tie the dish together. And the chimichurri? I just had it in the fridge from making grilled shrimp the other day, so I figured I’d try it since it’d give the salmon a nice herby flavor instead of just having salt and pepper seasoning. Chimichurri generally goes well on any grilled item, so it had to be good!
The result of all of this together? AMAZING! I honestly was just throwing a hodgepodge of ingredients together, but it turned out incredibly delicious.
But wait! Let’s not forget the salad! Okay, I know. Grilled lettuce might sound stupid–I initially thought the idea was pretty dumb because WHY would you grill lettuce? My coworker mentioned to me how Gordon Ramsay (my absolute favorite!) recently blasted a chef on Kitchen Nightmare for a grilled salad, so I was a little nervous. But then I remember having grilled romaine for a Caesar salad at a fancy restaurant in D.C.once a while ago. So I thought “Well…maybe…?” If other (good) restaurants are doing it (and I’ve seen it on Food Network), it’s gotta work to some extent, right? I also looked up “grilled romaine” to see how much protest there was to this on the interwebz, and Gordon has actually had grilled romaine (lol) at his Maze restaurant, so it can’t be that bad. I guess you just need to make sure to not mess it up!
Anyway. Grilled romaine. Why the bother? After trying it again, I noticed that the char gives the salad an interesting flavor note compared to your classic non-grilled lettuce leaves. For this recipe, the char gives that slight bitter taste, a good contrast to the creamy ranch dressing you’re going to slather all over the lettuce. There’s also a slight contrast in texture–some of the charred bits will be a little wilted, while other bits will be nice and crisp. Charred lettuce also makes for a pretty presentation!
Speaking of dressing, ranch dressing NEEDS to be homemade. Once you make it homemade, you’ll pretty much never want to buy the bottled stuff anymore. Real ranch dressing is rich, creamy, and herbacious, whereas bottled dressing is full of sugar, xanthan gum, corn starch, and all kinds of weird stuff that doesn’t need to be in dressing. Bottled dressing is all about convenience, but if you have the time (like 5 minutes!), make the ranch yourself because I promise, it’s so worth the effort.
Anyway, so much talking, not enough cooking! If you want to skip to the recipe, feel free to click here to jump to the instructions!
Notes on this recipe! I used a lot of random recipes I found to create this dish. I’ll list the links to the places I’ve found those recipes and let you know how to adjust the ratios so you don’t end up with a ton of random things.
For the salmon, it’s best to get a skin-on salmon fillet. Like with many other meats and seafood, keeping the skin or shell on helps retain the moisture. You don’t have to have the skin, but it helps a lot with keeping the fillet moist.
For the mayo used in the ranch dressing, you can certainly use Hellman’s or Best Foods, but in the spirit of homemade things, I made my own using Epicurious’ homemade mayo recipe here. I substituted grapeseed oil for canola since that’s what I had, but canola should work just fine.
For the ranch dressing, I used this ranch recipe from AllRecipes.com with a few adjustments. I halved the recipe to 6 servings (easily done by clicking on the servings icon and changing to 6), used fresh chives and fresh parsley (because they were in my fridge), and tasted and adjusted as I went. I’m not sure how bottled mayo will change the taste of this ranch, but normally, ranch is best made with buttermilk. Since no buttermilk was used for this recipe, I recommend tasting, then adding (to taste) around 1/2 to 1 tsp of lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard to give the ranch its tang. Usually to create a simple buttermilk flavor for baking, you’d just add lemon juice to milk, so this is the same idea. When you taste, realize that you’re tasting for the tartness and saltiness of the dressing, not for the flavor of the herbs, garlic, and onion. It’ll take a few hours for the flavors of the herbs to infuse into the sauce, so if you’re cautious, you can always wait for a few hours THEN adjust the seasoning with the lemon and dijon.
For the chimichurri, I used Chowhound’s Argentinian chimichurri recipe here and halved the recipe. This is best made a couple hours ahead of time so the herbs can infuse. Since this sauce keeps for about a week, you can put it on other grilled items–meat and veggies, or just as a dressing in a salad.
Whew, lots of notes! Okay, ready to go? Let’s cook!
Grilled Cheese-Stuffed Salmon with Grilled Romaine Salad
- 1 medium salmon fillet (mine was 150g)
- 0.5 to 1 oz Saint-Andre cheese (a slice)
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced (about 1/4″ thick)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (for brushing onto salmon and lettuce)
- 1 tbsp chimichurri sauce (or more to your liking)
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, split in half lengthwise
- 2-3 tbsp ranch dressing (use according to taste)
- Preheat your grill so it’s nice and hot. I preheated mine until the dial reached 400F before starting to cook, but I recommend a little higher if possible (450-500F). The super hot grill will create those grill marks!
- While your grill heats, let’s prep all the food! Brush some olive oil on the flat side (where you cut the lettuce head) of the romaine halves. Season with some salt and pepper and set aside.
- Next, prep your salmon. Cut a slit in the middle of the salmon fillet, 3/4 of the way through (not all the way!) to create a pocket. Stuff the cheese into the pocket and try not to let the cheese stick out because it’ll start oozing out as it melts.
- Brush some olive oil on both sides of the salmon. Also season the salmon on the skinless side. Set aside until the grill is ready.
- Once the grill is nice and hot, place the salmon on the grill, skin side up. You’ll know if your grill is hot enough if you hear that distinct sizzle noise. Cook for about 4-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the lemon slices onto the grill and leave them there to develop some char.
- After 4-5 minutes, the salmon will be easily flippable once it’s ready. Since we oiled the fish, the fillet should easily lift off the grill and have some nice grill marks. Use a flat metal spatula to flip the fillet, and do so carefully!
- Once you have flipped the salmon fillet so the skin side is down, you’ll need to cook the salmon for another 3-4 minutes for a 1″ thick fillet. Don’t try to cook it longer than that or you’ll overcook the salmon! The fish will be just about flaky (but not dry) when it’s done. You’ll know it’s overcooked when you start seeing small white beads forming on the fish.
- As you wait for the salmon to finish cooking, you can start grilling the romaine since it’ll be pretty quick. Place the romaine onto the grill with the flat side down. Grill for about 2-3 minutes or until you see some char on the leaves.
- Both the salmon and the lettuce should be ready about the same time! Plate both the salmon and lettuce onto a plate to serve. Take those lemon slices you put on the grill earlier and place them on the salmon fillet. Spoon on about 1 tbsp of chimichurri onto the salmon.
- Spoon some ranch dressing onto the grilled romaine. I used about 2 tbsp and left the last tbsp on the side for dipping if I felt like I needed more.