You know you have a great recipe when the leftovers are just as good cold the next day. That’s what happened to me when I made this whole salmon dish for company last night. This dish really works well for company because you can make one large piece, and it feeds a crowd. Furthermore, the dish can be prepared ahead of time. Also, the timing is flexible, so when the dish comes out of the oven, it can sit awhile if necessary and be served lukewarm with delicious results.
Three things make this dish a star– moistness, contrasting textures, and flavor combination. The fish stays moist wrapped in foil with liquid and sautéed vegetables. The crunch of the vegetables is a nice contrast to the soft, flaky fish. The mix of flavors is outstanding– the fennel has a hint of licorice flavor, and it blends nicely with the subtle sweet taste of orange, wine, and thyme. The whole fish also makes a beautiful presentation on a platter.
Surprisingly, the recipe is straightforward to make. First, you sauté some julienned vegetables and then place them on top of a whole piece of salmon, which is then wrapped in foil. Let the fish marinade in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it in the oven. Serve the fish whole on a large platter decorated with fennel fronds.
The recipe came from my friend Jacqui, and when she made it, I loved the fennel-salmon combination. I later learned that Jacqui adapted the recipe from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. When I went to make this recipe myself, I did some recipe research and incorporated some ideas I got from recipes posted on Food52.com by Mrs. Larkin and Monkeymom. I added the carrots for color contrast and pumped up the complementary flavors. I decided to cook the fish flat for even cooking and wrapped it in foil to promote moistness. A few tweaks later, and I had one of the tastiest dishes that I have made lately. I will also give a plug for fresh, high-quality ingredients– the fish I used was very fresh and the orange was extra sweet.
During the excitement to serve my dinner guests, I neglected to take my final “money” shot of the salmon plated on the serving platter. But it was all worth it because the guests and I enjoyed the food and camaraderie. Even some kids who don’t usually eat salmon really liked this salmon dish– now that’s a compliment.
If you should be lucky enough to have any leftovers, serve the salmon cold in a sandwich made with fresh brioche bread and topped with the cooked veggies and sliced avocado. I must say that eating this sandwich made me feel like I was dining in a fancy French bistro. I savored every bite.
Recipe for Foil-Roasted Salmon With Fennel and Orange
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
1 fennel bulb, sliced into julienne strips about 1/4-inch wide and 3 inches long (about 1 pound).
1 small sweet onion, sliced into julienne strips about 1/4 inch wide and 3 inches long.
2 medium-sized carrots, sliced into julienne strips about 1/4 inch wide and 3 inches long.
2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
2 tablespoons orange zest
3-1/2 pound whole piece of salmon filet, bones removed, skin on is fine (with fairly even thickness to promote even cooking.)
Fennel fronds for garnish
1. Sauté the fennel, onions, and carrots with olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir periodically. Then add the orange juice, wine, thyme, fennel fronds, and orange zest to sauté pan and stir. Sauté for about 5 minutes more until the liquid significantly reduces and the vegetables start to get tender. Set aside to cool.
2. Generously season the fish with salt and pepper.
3. To make the foil packet: Take out a baking sheet (with sides) long enough to accommodate the whole fish. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is twice the length of the baking sheet, and lay the foil centered on the baking sheet. If your fish is almost as wide as the foil, use an additional piece of foil, and place it on the baking sheet perpendicular to the first piece of foil.
4. Spread half of the cooled vegetable mixture on the foil-lined baking sheet. Lay the fish on top of the vegetables. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables and juices. Seal up the foil packet. Refrigerate the fish until ready to cook.
5. 20 minutes before cooking time, take the fish out of the refrigerator, and let it sit out so it isn’t so cold. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
6. Cook the salmon until the dark orange, opaque flesh turns solid, light orange. Do not over cook. Cooking time will be about 25-35 minutes. Peel back the foil and use a fork to peek into the thickest part of the fish. Cover up where you peeked with sautéed vegetables when serving, and no one will ever know.
7. Spread fennel fronds as garnish on a large serving platter. Place the whole fish on the platter, and spoon all the vegetables and juices over the top. Serve immediately or the fish will “hold” for at least a half hour.