Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Whole Baked Alaska Salmon with Fennel and Herbs

In the book, Good Luck Life, the author Rosemary Gong says that it's important for fish to be served with the head and tail to ensure a good year, from start to finish.  So as we ring in 2014, we decided to bake a whole salmon for good luck. Fortunately, we alway set aside a few whole salmon each summer and store them in the freezer, rather than filleting them. Luck aside, leaving the heads and tails on while cooking imparts a whole new level of flavor. Bump it up by stuffing with fennel, onions, herbs and bacon. The fennel and onion add a savory sweetness and the bacon, well, you know what bacon does :) ~Patti
4-5 pound whole salmon, cleaned
4 slices bacon, diced small
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
1/4 fennel bulb, chopped, reserve some of the fronds
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons sage (dried)
1 teaspoon oregano, dried (I use the Mexican oregano, so aromatic!)
Salt & Pepper
Compound Butter:
1/2 stick unsalted butter
parsley or any herbs you like

Make stuffing. First, get all your stuffing ingredients chopped, minced, measured out, etc. Then fry bacon until almost cooked (about 5 minutes). Add onion and cook another 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and fennel bulb and cook about a minute (be careful not to burn garlic). Stir in the herbs and remove from heat. Set aside to cool while you make the compound butter.

Compound butter adds quick and easy flavor! Put room temperature unsalted butter in your food processor. Add parsley and however much garlic you like. Puree. Place in parchment paper, wrap into a log shape and pop in the freezer to firm up while you prep fish. You can add in any herbs or spices to butter that appeal to you. Go crazy, it's your butter...and fish.

 Lay your salmon on a large piece of foil. Open the cavity and fill with stuffing.

Go ahead and put in the fennel fronds and a few pats of the compound butter you made. Using kitchen twine, tie the fish closed. Snip ends of twine and tuck any stuffing stragglers back into the fish. I rubbed about 1 tablespoon of compound butter on top of skin, but you can always use olive oil if you'd rather. Do not skip this step or fish will stick to foil.

Place into preheated 400 degree oven on a large baking sheet. I found that my 4 pound salmon took about 35 minutes. Use a thermometer to check for done-ness. I pulled it out of the oven when it reached 130 degrees at its thickest point. Let your salmon sit for another 5-10 minutes in the foil. The carry over cooking will bring it to the recommended 135 degrees. 

Transfer to platter and carefully scoop out your stuffing and set aside. Then open and pull out the spine. It will come out in one piece. Then remove skin. There's really no way around not making a mess when you do this but I guarantee your salmon will taste delicious. 

Serve with stuffing piled on top, and a nice green salad. I used the left over compound butter for the french loaf I served.

Note: We have found the best way to freeze a whole fish is to clean it thoroughly, pat dry and wrap in butcher paper. Then place it in a plastic trash bag and secure with tape. Be sure to label it and then pop it in the freezer. Another rule of thumb, consume your fish before the next fishing season starts!

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