“It’s all in the technique,” as they say under the sea.
Every time I get lucky enough to eat a piece of fresh, wild-caught, Atlantic King salmon, I think to myself: “is there anything better than fresh, wild-caught, Atlantic King salmon?!” I don’t think so. But another question I often ask myself is: “is there anything more expensive?!” Salmon of this variety sells easily for $30/lb., so it is not often I treat myself to it. Yes, it’s easy to buy a cheaper species like sockeye or chinook, and frozen and/or farmed is certainly cheaper, but for me those options just don’t compare. King salmon has a higher fat content than the leaner varieties mentioned above, and produces the most tender flakey fish when prepared correctly. I’ve tried many times to freeze salmon I’ve bought on sale, but I’ve found it alters the texture to be somewhat… mushy when cooked.
So as much as I absolutely love salmon, I’ve decided it’s just better to spend the money and do it “right” on special occasions, rather than try to save a bit and drastically compromise quality.
Apparently I have stronger opinions on salmon than I thought.
This dish is a winner. The “technique” behind it is from none other than Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse. When it comes to simple, beautiful, delicious food, no one does it better. For that reason, I always turn to Alice first when I want to learn more about cooking certain dishes.
So many fish recipes cooked in the oven call for either broiling or roasting at a high temperature of around 400-450°F . Alice chooses a “slow roast,” which at 45 minutes total, isn’t all that slow. With the oven set to 275°F , you’ll create a humidified environment for roasting the fish by placing a small pan of water on the bottom rack. The steam it creates helps lock in moisture and makes it nearly impossible for the salmon to dry out.
The citrus and fennel are my own touches. I wanted to add plenty of winter flavors to an otherwise summery meal. The result is a simple, low-maintenance dinner that is not only delicious, but absolutely gorgeous. Just look at all those colors!
This is the perfect meal to serve for a weekend dinner party, sure to impress your guests while brightening up these dark winter months!
Slow Roasted Salmon with Citrus & Fennel
Yields 3-4 servings
- 1 bulb fennel
- 1 lb. fresh center-cut King salmon fillet, about 1″ thick
- 1 Tbs. olive oil, divided
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 navel orange, sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1 blood orange, sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1 lemon, sliced 1/4″ thick
- 2 sprigs, fresh rosemary
Preheat your oven to 400°F .
Remove the leafy stalks from the fennel bulb and set aside. Slice the bulb into pieces about 1/4″ thick. Toss with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until the fennel just starts to soften but can’t quite be pierced easily with a fork.
Turn down the oven temperature to 275°F . Fill a small baking pan with about an inch of water, and place it on the lowest rack of the oven.
In a large baking dish or roasting pan, arrange the reserved fennel stalks in the center. Lay the salmon fillet directly on top. Arrange the citrus slices around the fish, alternating the colors if desired. Drizzle the top of the dish with the remaining olive oil, season the salmon liberally with salt and pepper, then squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top.
Scatter the partially roasted fennel bulb over the citrus slices, followed by the sprigs of rosemary. You may break these up into smaller pieces or leave them whole.
Roast the dish for 40-50 minutes*, just until it flakes easily with a fork. The recommended internal temperature for salmon is 145. I remove mine from the oven at around 135, because it will continue to cook for a few minutes in the dish on the counter.
You may either cut this into individual portions, or whole as is, allowing people to flake off their own servings as desired.
*Oven temperatures vary, so your cooking time may as well. This recipe is easily doubled, but if you use a larger fillet cooking time will be closer to 60-70 minutes.