Start to finish: 1½ hours / Servings: 8
Ideal for a crowd, a side of salmon is an impressive main course that’s as good at room temperature as it is hot from the oven. Trouble is, it can be difficult to cook without drying out and often is flavorless. Our inspiration for a better way came from an oven-poaching method we learned from French chef Michel Bras.
He slow cooks smaller cuts of salmon in a 250ºF oven over a water-filled baking pan. To adapt the technique for a larger side of salmon, we ratcheted up the heat; surrounded the fish with carrots, celery, shallot, and a bit of vermouth; and covered it all tightly with foil.
This allowed the salmon to steam and infuse with flavor while cooking faster and staying tender. And for even more flavor, we start by soaking the salmon briefly in soy sauce. A fillet between 1½ and 1¾ inches thick worked best. We found the temperature was a better indicator for doneness than cooking time.
To test the salmon’s temperature, carefully peel back the foil just enough to insert a digital thermometer at the thickest end. The best way to perfectly cook this dish was to remove it from the oven a little before the salmon was fully cooked. The residual heat gently finished the cooking.
Don’t marinate the salmon longer than 20 minutes. The soy sauce adds an earthy dimension to the salmon’s flavor, but if left too long its saltiness will become
½ cup soy sauce
3½- to 4-pound salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
8 sprigs fresh dill, plus 3 teaspoons minced, divided
1 cup dry vermouth
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Lemon wedges, to serve
1. Heat the oven to 500ºF with a rack in the middle position. Pour the soy sauce into a baking dish large enough to fit the salmon. Add the fish, flesh side down. Marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl toss the carrots, celery, shallot, thyme, 8 dill sprigs and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Fold an 18-inch-long sheet of foil lengthwise into a strip wide enough for the salmon to fit on. Lightly coat the foil with oil, then place it, oiled side up, in the center of a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the carrot-celery mixture around the outside edges of the foil. Drizzle the vegetables with the vermouth. Place the salmon on the foil, flesh side up. Season with pepper.
3. Cover the entire pan tightly with foil, allowing it to dome over the salmon. Roast until the salmon registers 120ºF, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, keeping the foil in place, and let the salmon rest until it is between 125ºF and 130ºF, another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the top foil, then use the foil under the salmon to lift and transfer it to a serving platter. Let cool for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, strain the liquid and solids on the baking sheet into a saucepan. Discard the solids and all but ¾ cup of the liquid. Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a simmer. Off the heat, stir in the butter, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the minced dill. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the salmon. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons dill over the salmon. Serve with lemon wedges and the remaining sauce.