One of my friends call this roasted salmon “the beautiful dinner.” There is no doubt that this is a dish that rises to the occasion. I’ve made it for a gathering to support a friend whose mother had passed away and more recently for a special birthday dinner. Even the birthday girl’s husband — a notoriously picky eater who is usually just so-so about salmon — asked for second helpings.
Since the flavor of the salmon shines through this simple preparation it is important to buy the best salmon you can find. In general, wild salmon will have the best flavor, but it is not available fresh year round. When wild salmon is out of season, seek out a fish monger who sells sustainably farmed fish. I recently found sweet, melt in your mouth, salmon from Loch Duairt, Scotland at Dirk’s Fish Market in Chicago.
I was inspired by a recipe for whole, baked salmon in Colman Andrew’s “The Country Cooking of Ireland.” Since I don’t often see whole salmon in Chicago fish markets, I typically use a large salmon fillet. I usually serve it with boiled new potatoes in their skins with lots of Irish butter or roasted fingerling potatoes and a spinach gratin.
Almost as delicious is leftover cold salmon for lunch the next day served with a peppery watercress mayonnaise. Watercress is salmon’s natural partner — what grows together goes together. As a bonus, the bright spring green mayo served with the pink fish is a beautiful plate. To make the mayonnaise, puree a bunch of trimmed and finely chopped watercress in a food processor with two tablespoons of mayonnaise. Stir the watercress puree into a cup of mayonnaise.
The flavor of the fish shines through this simple recipe, so use the best salmon you can find.
- 2 lb./ 1 kg. salmon fillets
- 1/4 cup/ 60 kg. Irish butter softened
- juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C.
- With some of the butter, lightly grease a roasting pan
- Lay the salmon fillet on the greased pan.
- Drizzle the lemon juice over the fish.
- Dot with about 2 Tbsp. of butter.
- Roast for 15 to 20 minutes (8 to 10 minutes per lb./15 to 20 minutes per kg.)
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut into pieces about 3 inches/7.5 cm. wide.