Holy Spoons

The gift of hospitality sometimes comes with food.

Spice-rubbed fish with cream sauce


For quite a while now, we’ve had a few frozen tuna steaks and a few frozen salmon fillets buried in the freezer. Tonight, we decided to actually use them!

Thing is, so many of the salmon/ tuna recipes we found were… just kind of the same. Boring, even- salt, pepper, lemon, maybe some herbs. We wanted something new. We’re no strangers to unusual salmon recipes around here- you may recall the blueberry salmon (we also tested a grapefruit salmon this summer, and it was pretty good, but we want to try it again this winter with in-season fruit just to see. Stay tuned!).

We found two spice rubs, one for each fish. I also sort of made up a cream sauce recipe, based on this one (it’s a rather good humble recipe for one-pan chicken alfredo). Serve with pasta (we had spaghetti, but fettuccine or linguine or angel hair would also be fine, honestly). The result was a creamy, tasty, surprisingly light dinner.

In terms of order, you’ll notice that the fish happens last: that’s because the sauce can take a while depending on the heat of your stove, and you want the fish to be hot but not overcooked when you serve it. So we get everything else ready, and then we do the fish at the end, plate it up, and feast.

3/4 lb. spaghetti (we used a full pound and had more pasta than sauce left over)
2 tuna steaks, 3/4 inch thick (thawed)
2 salmon fillets, ~3/4 inch at thickest point (thawed)
Spice rubs (see below)
3 tbsp butter
Cream Sauce
1 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream + 3/4 cup light cream (this yields a creamy but not exceptionally heavy sauce- vary the ratio as you like to get a heavier or lighter sauce, but keep the total amount of cream used at 1 cup)
Generous splash Chardonnay (I know, I know- you can use your usual dry white if you’d prefer. We just had a nice acidic, fruity chardonnay open so that’s what I used)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 tsp paprika (or more, to taste [totally use more, it’s great])
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp parsley
Several twists black pepper
1 cup ground parmesan cheese
2 tbsp flour (or more, as necessary)
Olive oil
Salt to taste


  1. Make and set aside spice rubs for fish. Start water for pasta (so that it’s ready when you are).
  2. Make the cream sauce:
    1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a medium sauce pot. When it starts to shimmer, drop in the diced garlic and sauté until fragrant.
    2. Add that splash of white wine, followed by the chicken stock. Allow the mixture to reduce at a simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
    3. Whisk in cream- try to keep the sauce *below a boil* so that the cream doesn’t separate. That is, while not a just-start-over tragedy, sort of sad 😦
    4. Stir in paprika, tarragon, parsley and pepper. Let the whole lot simmer until you wouldn’t call it “watery” anymore (~5 minutes on medium heat?) Add a little more wine, just because.
    5. At this point, whisk in the cheese SLOWLY- if you go too fast, you’ll have weird lumps of melted cheese, and that’s not ideal. If it doesn’t taste cheesy enough, then add more cheese!
    6. Whisk in flour, if needed- this will help thicken and stabilize it. Give the sauce a few more minutes so that the flour taste can cook off.
    7. Salt to taste (since it’s got a bunch of parmesan in it, it probably won’t need too much). Cover and let sit over low, low heat (just so it doesn’t cool down and get goopy, which it will once you take it off the heat. Do not fear. Low heat and some vigorous whisking and all shall be well again).
  3. Put the pasta in to cook. Prepare the fish: rinse and pat dry each steak/ fillet, and then apply generous amounts of the appropriate spice rub. Set aside.
  4. Cook the fish:
    1. So, the pan I used isn’t super big, so I had an easier time cooking the two fishes separately- I did the trout first, then wiped out the pan, then did the salmon. If you’ve got the space, feel free to do them all at once (just use 3 tbsp butter all at once instead of dividing it, as below).
    2. Melt 1 1/2 tbsp in a large pan over medium heat. When it is shimmering, place either the tuna or the salmon carefully into the pan.
    3. The method is essentially the same: Sear on one side, flip and sear on the other. Don’t mess around with it while it’s cooking! The less you move it, the more pretty it will be. Cook the tuna 1-2 minutes per side, and the salmon 2-3.
      1. Note: the tuna will not be “cooked through”- this is okay! If you cook tuna steaks until they’re all white and flaky all over, then they’ll be quite dry.
  5. Put it all together: serve pasta, sauce, and fish all in a nice big pile on the plate. A small green salad with a vinaigrette would not be amiss. Maybe some wine (in a glass this time), or just water. Or nothing. Whatever you want, really.


Trout spice rub- we used this one. Yeah, yeah, I know- it’s from Men’s Health, of all places. But seriously, it was pretty good.

1 Tbsp kosher salt* (original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp, which we used, and while it was good, it was Very Salty. Consider yourself warned.)
Generous pinch allspice
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange (our orange was pretty small, just for reference)
1 tsp dried tarragon
Salmon spice rub- we used this one. New York Times, the same place we got the blueberry salmon recipe, incidentally.

6-8 twists each of ground sea salt and pepper
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground nutmeg
(If a little orange zest from the other rub falls in, so much the better)


About aeronwynn

22. Recent college graduate. In the absence of a summer job, I needed something to do. That something turned out to be cooking (also running, but the cooking is going better).

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2016 by in main dish and tagged , , , , .
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