I’ve gotten into the routine of making salmon on Sundays. Not the quick pan-fried variety that I sometimes make during the week. On Sundays I cook it low and slow in the oven with a method that still takes less than half an hour for a 1-pound filet. After all, that’s the beauty of this fish—whether you’re searing it until crisp or slow-roasting—it requires very little manipulation to turn it into a superior dinner. This method is the one I use when I want to make salmon for company, especially when I’d like it prepared ahead of time. Once it’s roasted it can be served chilled or at room temperature.
Salmon’s pronounced and distinct flavor means it can be paired with equally as assertive ingredients. This is why it’s so often served coated in a salty-sweet teriyaki or a slathered with a vibrant herb sauce. While the stronger flavors always do well with salmon, a lighter touch reveals an equally delicious end product.
In this recipe restraint is key. A bit of lemon, honey, butter and salt are employed as the respective acid, sweetener, fat and salt necessary in any good recipe—but they aren’t here to coat or mask. They are here to enhance. And thanks to such restraint, the buttery, fatty flavor of salmon becomes the focal point of this recipe. The lemons are sliced thin and baked on top and alongside the salmon leaving a light citrus flavor that scents the fish without overpowering it. The same goes for the honey and butter. A whisper of sweetness from the honey becomes a secondary note as it collapse under the heat and seeps into the fish. Like the lemon, it maintains its presence in the end product, but its flavor becomes more of a memory rather than the current event.
One of the most important things you do in the recipe is remove the salmon from the heat while it’s medium rare. It will continue to cook while it stands resulting in a fish that flakes when barely prodded and melts when bitten into. This texture reveals even more of its flavor. And because the salmon is removed from the oven before being fully cooked there is no risk of it being dry or tough.
My salmon Sundays have been a way to transition from the heartier, truly low-and-slow cooking of the winter. Braises and stews are being left behind in favor of lighter fare, but I can’t quite trade in the way slow cooking transforms a food into the most supple version of itself. Now, rather than short ribs cooked for 3 hours, it’s a 30-minute salmon that’s equally as comforting and to both cook and eat.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 poun salmon, patted dry with paper towels, room temperature
- 2 T. butter, soften
- 1 T. honey
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- cracked black pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place salmon on prepared tray.
Meanwhile in a small dish stir, together butter, honey and salt. Spread over salmon. Cover with lemon slices. Sprinkle with black pepper, if desired.
Bake salmon 17 to 25 minutes or until salmon is still translucent on top and gives no resistance with prodded with a fork. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.