Ready in 20 minutes
With the addition of the fish fillets, the pan temperature drops; compensate for the heat loss by keeping the heat on medium-high for 30 seconds after adding them. If cooking two or three fillets instead of the full recipe of four, use a 10-inch skillet and medium-high heat for both preheating the pan and cooking the salmon. For heightened sesame flavor, rub the fish fillets with Asian sesame oil instead of canola or vegetable.
1. Heat a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet for 3 minutes over high heat. Spread sesame seeds in a pie plate. Rub salmon fillets with 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then press flesh sides of fillets in sesame seeds to coat.
2. Add remaining oil to pan; swirl to coat. When oil shimmers (but does not smoke) add fillets skin side down and cook, without moving fillets, until pan regains lost heat, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-high; continue to cook until skin side is well browned and bottom half of fillets turns opaque, 4 1/2 minutes. Turn fillets and cook, without moving them, until they are no longer translucent on the exterior and are firm, but not hard, when gently squeezed: 3 minutes for medium-rare and 3 1/2 minutes for medium. Remove fillets from pan, being careful not to break sesame crust; let stand 1 minute. Pat with paper towel to absorb excess fat on surface, if desired. Serve immediately.
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