A New Sauce for My Salmon

We live in a small community of 103 homes in the foothills of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains. The neighborhood is governed by a volunteer board comprised of neighbors.

It is a very party-loving community, too. In fact, of the seven board members, one is assigned solely to social activities.

Aside from the annual meeting, there are four big parties sponsored by the board, plenty of unofficial dinners in one another's homes, and AD HOC pool parties in the summer.

I just finished my four-year tenure on the board and, as you might guess, I was the Social Chair.

Of all the events, the Holiday Party is the biggest undertaking of the year. Together, the board member make a dinner for about 80 people. Each member brings a different part of the meal, from cheese and crackers to hot hors d'œuvres, from salads and sides to main courses. The community guests bring desserts. 

For the main courses, Carol always brings her roasted ham with champagne sauce. It is hugely popular, and it wouldn't feel like the holidays without it. I roast 12 pounds of salmon, and usually serve it with a light yoghurt-citrus sauce.

This year, in addition to the yoghurt sauce, I decided to offer a salsa verde - not the Mexican salsa verde one expects in this region, but Mediterranean. This quick and easy sauce is perfect with roasted meats, vegetables, and (of course) salmon.

It was a huge hit, and now I can't imagine serving roasted salmon without it. I made it for Mark and me the other day, as he never got to try it at the party. We served it with a 2006 Rasteau Les Hauts du Village (Côtes du Rhône), which worked beautifully with the roasted salmons rich flesh and vinegary herb sauce. Read more about this pairing in my Provençal Pairings column at the Provence WineZine.

This is a great recipe for a crowd, especially if you are having a buffet. The salmon fillet is roasted whole, and the sauce is served on the side. A 2 1/2 to 3-pound fillet will easily feed 6-8 people.

~ David

Roasted Salmon

1 large salmon fillet, skin removed - about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
dry mustard

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray. Place fillet, skinned side down, on the foil. Season lightly with salt and liberally with pepper. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the salmon with dry mustard.

For wild salmon, roast whole fillet for 12 minutes. If roasting individual fillets, roast for 9 minutes.

For farm raised Atlantic salmon, roast whole fillet for 15 minutes. If roasting individual fillets, roast for 12 minutes.

As always, the thickness of your fillets can change your cooking times. In general, fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

When making this for large crowds, I roast multiple fillets and then serve them at room temperature with a couple of sauce options. For dinner parties, I tend to cut fillets into individual portions and either plate the meal, or arrange them on a tray to pass.

Serve hot or at room temperature with salsa verde.

Salsa verde

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely minced
1 heaping tablespoons of capers, chopped
4 fillets of anchovies, finely chopped
pepper flakes, as desired
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley (all stems removed), chopped - about 1 cup
1 tablespoon herbed white wine vinegar, plus extra, if needed

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the chopped shallot for a few minutes. While shallot is cooking (do not let it brown) finely chop capers, anchovies, and a pinch of pepper flakes together. Add to the oil and shallots, and remove from the heat.

Once cooled, add parsley incorporating it into the mixture. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to the salsa. Taste, and add more vinegar if you feel it is necessary.

Allow salsa to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Makes about 1 cup.

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