It's salmon season! California's commercial salmon fishing opened for the season on May 1, and while we may have to wait a while for the home-grown tomatoes and corn to catch up, having local wild-caught Pacific salmon in the markets definitely makes it feel like summer in the kitchen. King, also known as chinook, salmon is coming into the markets right now, often caught as close as Monterey and Bodega Bays. It's well named, being the salmon that chefs and diners alike prize most highly for its rich, succulent, and deeply flavorful flesh.
Later in the season, you can think about preserving the catch with chef Neil Davidson's tutorial on how to butcher, smoke, and can salmon and other fish. Right now, with the fat, krill-fed early season fish coming in, our forks and our bellies can't wait for anything more than grilling, sauteeing, or in this case, a damp slow roast in a low-temp oven.
Of course, "slow" is relative term here--since fish cooks quickly, even this slow cooking should only take about 25 minutes. Adding a pan of water to steam gently underneath while the fish cooks helps keep the flesh moist, as does slathering on a coat of minced shallots, fresh herbs, and olive oil. Serve the fish warm or room temperature over boiled or steamed fingerling potatoes and an herb salad.
Slow-cooked Salmon Over Herb Salad
The slow-cook technique is inspired by the recipe for Wild Salmon Salad with Beets, Potatoes, Egg in Mustard Vinaigrette found in Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin's 2005 cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques.
- 1 lb fillet of Pacific king salmon, skin on, preferably in one piece
- 2 shallots, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tbsp fresh dill or chervil, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
- 3 tbsp parsley, minced
- finely grated zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon (save juice for squeezing over cooked fish)
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
- a handful of flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
- 1 handful arugula
- 2 handfuls baby greens or mixed lettuces
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds, dill fronds, or a mixture of the two
- 1 tbsp tarragon leaves
- 1 tbsp chives, chopped
- 5 radishes, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup peeled and blanched fava beans, optional
- 2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
- 1 tbsp finely minced shallot
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 250ºF. Half-fill a round or square cake pan with water and place it on the lower rack of the oven. Place a rack on a baking sheet. Rub the rack lightly with olive oil. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the rack and set aside to come to room temperature while you make the herb paste.
- In a medium bowl, mix the shallots and herbs together. Add enough olive oil to make a chunky paste. Sprinkle the salmon lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then cover with herb paste. Sprinkle on a little more sea salt.
- Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and fish separates into moist flakes when prodded with the tip of a knife. Squeeze juice from zested lemon over fish.
- While the fish is cooking, toss parsley, arugula, tarragon, dill and/or fennel fronds together. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Taste for seasoning. Just before serving, toss salad with half the dressing, drizzling in more as needed. Arrange on a platter or individual plates and top with radishes and favas. Arrange salmon next to salad.