Of the various ways king salmon can be cooked, this one is shockingly simple and strikingly good. The salmon is baked in a very slow, humidified oven, which yields a moist, tender, velvet-textured fish. When it is served at room temperature with fennel and fava beans, or tomatoes and green beans, or beets and garden lettuces, it has versatility and appeal the entire season. And since it holds well for a few hours, it's also perfect for a picnic or buffet.
Servings: 6 - 8
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 center-cut king salmon fillet (about 3 pounds)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Meyer Lemon Relish
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place a pan of warm water on the lowest rack in the oven. This creates a humid environment that helps keep the salmon moist.
Lightly brush a baking pan with the oil. Brush the salmon with the oil to taste and season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Place the salmon in the baking pan and transfer it to the oven. Allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours for the salmon to cook through, depending on the thickness. If it seems to be cooking too fast, reduce the heat a bit. The salmon is cooked when it is just barely firm to the touch and juices are beginning to collect on top of the fillet. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, or up to 3 hours, at room temperature.
To serve, break the salmon into rough pieces and serve with the Meyer Lemon Relish (see related recipe).
Variation: Season the salmon with roughly chopped fresh herbs (such as basil or tarragon), grated citrus peel and finely sliced shallots before baking.
Adapted from Alice Waters's "Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook" (HarperCollins, 1999). From the "Salmon, Trout and Arctic Char" chapter of "One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish" (Smithsonian Books, 2003).
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