Sunday, March 26, 2006

Slow Roasted Salmon With Chive Oil

While surfing the food blogosphere this Friday afternoon, I stumbled on Is My Blog Burning event, hosted by Too Many Chefs. It's a monthly theme event that food bloggers from far and wide participate in, and this month's theme is to prepare a weekday dinner from scratch in 30 minutes or less. "That's too easy!" I thought. About 90% of fish dishes on Beyond Salmon are my weekday dinners and they all take less than 30 minutes. But then I realized that the deadline was this Sunday, which meant that I wouldn’t have a chance to make any more "weekday" dinners, and the plans I had for the weekend were not exactly 30 minute meals. Of course, I could post something I've made before, but that would be cheating.

I started working my way through the list of dishes I was planning to cook this weekend:
  • Pork tenderloin with polenta cakes and broccoli rabe -- nope, that needs a marinade
  • Rhubarb pie -- yeah right
  • Fresh pasta with pea pesto -- you are kidding!
  • Turnip soup with maple cream -- really easy, but has to simmer for a while
  • Slow roasted salmon with chive oil -- that's it!
How can something "slow roasted" be a 30 minute meal? Bear with me.

My rule of thumb for cooking fish is high heat (400F or higher) and quick cooking time (8-10 minutes per inch of thickness). But what are rules for, but to be broken? A while ago, on some website (maybe Chowhound), I heard of Charlie Trotter's slow-roasted salmon. The idea was to cook it at very low temperature, like 250F, until it's evenly medium-rare throughout. Even at 250F it will takes only 15-20 minutes. This idea captured my imagination, and after playing with it for a while I finally settled on a way to make a killer dish out of it. The trick is to be generous with salt when seasoning (this makes the salmon taste kind of like smoked salmon), and to take it out of the oven when it is still translucent (for that melt-in-your-mouth texture). And you know how smoked salmon is perfect with chive cream cheese? I borrowed that idea from New York bagel shops, and added a squirt of chive oil to the silky salmon. Its bright green notes are both savory and refreshing.

Wouldn't it be better to actually find Trotter's recipe? Maybe. But that would take all the fun out of it. I like messing around with the idea until I get it just right, and I hate following recipes. This is probably not the best thing to tell you right before giving you a recipe :)

Back to the 30 minute meal challenge. Our friends were coming over for dinner on Sunday night and I was planning to make a dressed-up version of the slow-roasted salmon. The salmon itself needs no prep work, and the chive oil can be done while salmon is roasting in about 2 minutes. But can I dress this dish up and still keep it under 30 minutes?

Ready, set, go! I snipped the tips of white asparagus and reserved them for later. Chopped up the stems and starting cooking them in a little water. 28 minutes remaining. While asparagus was cooking, I cleaned and chopped up some wild mushrooms and started cooking them Julia Child's way (with butter, squirt of lemon juice and port, first covered on low, then uncovered and sautéed until browned). 18 minutes remaining. Oh good, asparagus was done. I added cream and pureed it with an immersion blender. Shit, I can still taste the skins! Oh no -- quick, put it through a sieve. Mmm, nice and creamy -- that's better. 10 minutes remaining. The mushrooms are starting to brown. Throw in asparagus tips and rinse the blender (good thing immersion blenders are easy to wash). 5 minutes remaining. Chop the chives, add the oil, and bzzzzzz (more immersion blender fun) -- done! I saved the 1 minute step of putting the salmon in the oven for when our firends got here.

Of course, I dirtied 3 pans and an extra bowl for the chive oil, and this was 30 very intense minutes. After a full day at work, it's hard to have enough concentration to go this fast. For a more realistic weekday version, skip the wild mushrooms and asparagus puree. Put the salmon in the oven, trim and sautee asparagus (green or white), and make the chive oil. And have yourself a 20 minute no stress meal.

Slow Roasted Salmon With Chive Oil

Serves 4

For Chive Oil
1 bunch chives, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil

For Salmon:
4 salmon fillets with skin (6 oz each)
salt and pepper
2 tsp butter, plus more for buttering the pan

For Sauce and Sides:
1 Lb white asparagus, trimmed
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp butter
12 oz fresh wild mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp port or red wine

Chive Oil:
  1. Puree chives and oil in a blender or food processor (immersion blender works best). Season with a pinch of salt.
  1. Preheat the oven to 250F. Butter a baking dish.
  2. Generously rub salmon fillets with salt and pepper, and place them in a buttered dish skin side down. Top each piece with 1/2 tsp butter and place in the middle of the oven for 18 minutes per inch of thickness. Salmon is done when you can insert a knife between the flakes without much resistance (it should feel like cutting through butter), but it is still translucent inside and out. Don’t wait for it to flake!
While salmon is cooking, make the sauce and sides:
  1. Set a small saucepan with 1/2 cup salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut of the tips of asparagus (1 inch), and reserve for later. Cut the stems into 1/2 inch pieces and put in a saucepan with boiling water. Cover and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Take off heat, add cream and puree with a blender or a food processor. Put through a fine sieve, pressing hard on solids. Taste and correct seasoning. Return to the saucepan and keep warm on low heat.
  3. Set a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 Tbsp butter and wait for it to melt. Add mushrooms, lemon juice, and port. Season with salt. Cover and cook until mushrooms give off the liquid, about 6 minutes. Uncover, turn up the heat and cook stirring occasionally until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus tips and cook stirring occasionally until mushrooms are brown and asparagus tips are tender, about 3 minutes.
  4. Divide asparagus puree among 4 plates. Top with sautéed asparagus and mushrooms. Place a piece of salmon on top of each plate. Spread a teaspoon of chive oil on top of each piece of salmon. Drizzle a little more chive oil over the plate and serve.
Note: You'll have plenty of chive oil leftovers. Keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Use as a bread dip and a topping for fish and pasta.


Anonymous said...

Hi Helen...can't wait to try this!

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen,

This looks divine. We tend to eat a lot of salmon in our household and because we seem to prepare it in the same few ways, it can get boring.

I will definitely be trying this!

And I love the chive oil. I've been experimenting with lemon oil and this is on my list next!

Stephanie said...

Hey Helen, I tried slow roasting salmon a while ago after reading about it in some of the other blogger's sites. It's brilliant, isn't it? I'd definitely try it again and use your recipe for the sauce this time.

Anonymous said...

Well done! Your fish looks beautiful!

Cathy said...

Wish I had known you at CMU! The salmon looks fantastic. I will definitely try it this week.

Anonymous said...

This looks great!


Tim Jacobs said...

Thanks very much for such a terrific recipe, Helen. I made the slow roasted salmon the other night and it was fantastic. I'm going to check out your other suggestions now.


Anonymous said...

This looks like a yummy low-carb, Passover-friendly dish - thanks! Stupid question: Does skin side down mean that the skin touches the baking pan (and the fish is what you see) or that the fish is touching the baking pan (and the skin is what you see)

Helen said...

The skin should be touching the baking dish and the flesh side should be what you see.

Good luck with cooking and happy Passover :)

Anonymous said...

If I were making this for 2 people instead of 4, should I reduce the oven time? Also, how is this dish left-over cold?

Helen said...

The cooking time depends on the thickness of fillets, not how many pieces of fish you have in the pan. I prefer to cut the fillet into 6-8oz portion pieces before cooking. If you prefer to keep a whole piece together, it will take a few more minutes per inch of thickness (maybe 20 instead of 18). It all depends on your oven, the dish you use, etc, so it's better to check for doneness early and often.

This dish taste pretty good cold too.

Unknown said...

OMG! What a great idea for a yummy sauce! After I put the salmon and some coin cut parsnips in the oven (slow-roasted is my fav), I sauteed some mushrooms in butter, then found some onion and added that to the sautee with some salt and pepper. Added a little fresh local cream and thought I'd just eat them with my salmon and roasted parsnips, but your recipe encouraged experimenting. Pureed the sautee in the food processor with a little more cream and, back to the beginning, OMG! was that tasty. Ate more than I should have with a lovely cheap sauvignon blanc. Thanks for the post.

dania @ the cookery said...

Helen I was wondering-
I want to make this dish, but the people I want to ccok it for like their fish to be cooked all the way through. Would it completely ruin the dish if I cook it longer? Should I go look for a different fish recipe? Thanks! Dania

Helen said...

Hi Dania,

this is one of the most forgiving dishes when it comes to well done salmon, so go for it.


Anonymous said...

Slow-roasting is my favorite way of cooking salmon now! Melt-in-your mouth delicious. I love your blog, looking forward to more veggies recipes!