Turkey will, no doubt, be the meat of choice in the week ahead. But since Thanksgiving kicks off a month-long season of festivities involving food, the timing seemed right for a simple yet versatile seafood option.
Because it’s ideal for entertaining, I call this dish “Party Salmon.” It’s an easy yet impressive spin on smoked salmon, and is baked in the oven. The fillet can be cooked in advance and served on a buffet table at room temperature or enjoyed hot-from-the-oven for a sit-down dinner.
The prep is quick and requires few ingredients, yet the presentation seems special. Amidst the holiday season’s never-ending supply of dips, chips, and cookies, healthy salmon can also be a welcome yet completely delicious change of pace.
In the warmer months, I like to prepare this salmon in advance for use as a protein-rich topper for a variety of dinner salads. Leftovers are a treat any time of the year and will keep, wrapped well and refrigerated, for up to five days. Beyond dinner, extras are a lunchtime treat and can also be the basis for a simple, savory breakfast.
For a delicious quick bite or appetizer, place a chunk of Party Salmon on a cucumber round and top with a dollop of horseradish dill sauce (recipe linked below). Finish with a small piece of fresh dill or parsley for a pretty look. For an alternative to cucumber rounds, you could use toasted, party-size pumpernickel bread. Both options are clever ways to utilize a small amount of leftover cooked salmon.
Because it’s so very simple, I don’t just save Party Salmon for company. I frequently serve this recipe as an easy-but-popular weeknight meal.
Yields 4-6 main dish, 10-12 appetizer servings.
- 1 salmon fillet* (about 1 1/2 pounds), preferably at or near room temperature
- 1/4 cup white wine (I typically use Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (lightly packed)
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Garnishes: Lemon slices, cucumber slices, fresh dill or parsley
- Optional Sauce: Creamy Dill Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the salmon on a large, rimmed baking sheet. If you prefer to remove the skin, do not grease the sheet. If you’d like to keep the skin on, do grease the baking sheet. Tip: the salmon will be easier to transfer without breaking when the skin is left on.
Pour the white wine over the salmon. Next sprinkle with the brown sugar, rubbing to evenly distribute, followed by the salt and pepper. I don’t measure but give it an “average” sprinkle—not too light, not too heavy. (For those who like a precise measurement, I would say 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.)
Bake the salmon for approximately 18 to 20 minutes or until a quick-read thermometer registers 125 degrees F. A temperature reading of 120 degrees F. will be slightly undercooked in the thicker parts of the fillet–a reference temperature if you prefer the inside to still be slightly rare. Precise cooking time will vary based on the size and thickness of the fillet. Feel free to cut into the thickest portion of the fillet if not using a thermometer and/or adjust according to personal preference.
Remove the salmon from the oven and let cool. (You may absolutely enjoy this salmon warm, too.) Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, transfer the salmon to a serving platter. I find this easiest when using two of my biggest and longest spatulas. If you didn’t grease the baking sheet (so that you could remove the skin), simply run the spatula between the salmon’s flesh and skin. The skin will stick to the sheet. If the fillet breaks, don’t worry. Just piece it back together and garnish with lemon slices, cucumber slices, and/or fresh herbs. Serve with optional Creamy Dill sauce.
- * What to do if your fillet is slightly bigger or smaller? For an easy adjustment, figure on 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of wine for every 1/4 pound (4 ounces) of uncooked salmon. I typically use a wild Sockeye fillet, which tends to be thinner and weigh less than a fillet of farmed salmon. If your fillet is larger, you’ll need to add a few minutes to the cooking time. Conversely, check smaller or very thin fillets a little sooner. Again, taking the internal temperature or discretely cutting into the fillet will be the best way to check for doneness.
- To reduce the amount of albumin–the harmless white stuff that often cooks out of salmon–bring the fillet to room temperature prior to cooking and be careful not to overcook.
Extra details on internal cooking temperature:
The FDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. In my opinion, this temperature produces dry salmon. America’s Test Kitchen recommends an internal temperature of 125 degrees F, which is what I aim for. If you prefer not to use a quick-read thermometer–which is a sure-fire way to get it right and super-dooper easy to use–check the salmon early and don’t hesitate to cut into the thickest portion of the fillet. The flesh should flake easily and be mostly cooked, but there should be a hint of undercooked, translucent meat in the center. The fish will continue to cook once removed from the oven. If you prefer to eat the salmon on the rare side, you’ll want to check a little earlier and aim for an internal temp of about 115 to 120 degrees F.
The horseradish is what, I think, makes this sauce really sing. It’s bright, zesty, and perfectly suited to Party Salmon or your favorite baked, broiled or grilled seafood. You could also serve it with crab cakes in place of cocktail or tartar sauce. Leftovers are delicious mashed into a baked potato, and I think broccoli tastes extra special when dipped in this speedy sauce.