The Basics: Simple Salmon, Basic Chicken, and How to Bake a Squash

Sometimes I make everything in life too complicated. The other night I asked The Chef what he wanted on his salmon, and he said, “Salt and pepper.” Salt and pepper? That’s it? “Sometimes,” he said, “Simple is good.”

So this is a post about the simple things. The basics. And sometimes, simple is good.

Simple Salmon

2-4 pieces salmon, or one per person
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450°. Drizzle or smear a baking dish with olive oil. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil on top, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and bake 10 minutes (on convection, if you have it), or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Note: Fish is best when done exactly. It’s very easy to overcook it, in which case it will be tough. You don’t want it underdone either, though. So keep an eye on it, and remember that it keeps cooking slightly in the hot baking dish after you take it out of the oven.

Basic Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about one per person
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Sage
Thyme

Preheat oven to 400°. Smear baking dish with olive oil. Place chicken thighs in baking dish and drizzle with more olive oil. Sprinkle on the seasonings. How much? Till it looks right. (You’re creative! I know you’ll figure it out. 😊) Bake 22 minutes (on convection), or until a butter knife pierces the chicken easily and the juices run clear.

Note: Chicken is a little more forgiving than fish, but you still want it done just right for the most enjoyable tenderness. So do bake it long enough, but don’t over-bake!

The Best Baked Butternut Squash (or at least my favorite way of doing it!)

Butternut squash
Olive oil

The first challenge with baking a squash is cutting it. A good chef knife definitely makes it easier. If you’re married, you can just get your husband to do it. 😉 If he’s busy, though, you can put the whole squash in the oven at 400° for 10 minutes. That should soften it enough to make it easier to cut. If you leave it in much longer, it will be mushy when you cut it, though, so don’t forget and leave it in too long.

Next is baking it. I’ve tried lots of ways of baking squash: upside-down, right- side up, in a pan of water, or just plopped whole in the oven. However, this way (in my experience) results in the sweetest, smoothest flavor and texture:

Place the squash with the cut side up on a baking dish or cookie sheet. Drizzle and smear olive oil over the squash, and bake at 400° (not on convection) for 55-70 minutes. The squash is done when golden brown on top and just beginning to look puckered, and a fork goes into the thickest point with no resistance.

Note: it’s very hard to overcook squash. I’d much rather have a super soft, creamy squash than a slightly crunchy, stringy, underdone squash!

So those are The Basics. Next week I’ll share the Fancy Salmon, Saucy Chicken, and Super Squash, but for now—simple is good! 🌷

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3 thoughts on “The Basics: Simple Salmon, Basic Chicken, and How to Bake a Squash

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