Despite the proliferation of how-to guides on grilling, pan-searing, and poaching fish, the thought of cooking this notoriously finicky protein can strike fear in the hearts of many a seasoned home cook. Between its strong smell and high price tag, salmon is probably the worst perpetrator of this anxiety.
But there's good news for fish-averse cooks: Joanne Changs recipe for slow-baked salmon in her new cookbook, Flour, Too, is not only easy (and pretty foolproof), but it also keeps that intense salmon smell at bay. The filets are well-coated in olive oil and then cooked in a gentle 300º F oven until just firm to the touch. They stay delicate and buttery, with no stringy flesh in sight. To pair with the rich salmon, Chang whips up a fluffy, lemon-y tabouli salad. It's heavy on the bulgur to make it a more substantial side dish, but the tabouli still has a strong, herbal presence.
Why I picked this recipe: It's king salmon season over here in California, and I can't get enough bites of its rich, buttery, and colorful flesh. Chang's cool, lemony tabouli seemed like a great match for the fish.
What worked: Slow-baking the salmon was a perfect cooking technique for both the fish's texture and the ease of cooking (nothing hard about throwing a couple of filets in the oven). The tabouli, while admittedly more grain-heavy than is traditional, was ready lickety-split.
What didn't: Be generous when it comes to lemon and salt in the salad. The mild bulgur wheat needs quite a bit of seasoning to come into its own.
Suggested tweaks: If you have a crazy fish market like mine that only sells skinless salmon fillets, you can still cook the salmon this way. Just be sure to line your baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking. You don't need to use Atlantic salmon here—choose the freshest fillets you can find in your area.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.