Roasting salmon in a cool oven for a long time may sound counter intuitive, but slow roasted salmon yields a moist fillet that looks almost raw, yet it has a melty tender texture that’s full of flavour. Short of vacuum sealing and cooking in a thermal circulator, I can’t think of a better way to prepare salmon. You get all the tenderness of poaching without diluting its natural flavors in water.
If that’s not enough to convince you, slow roasting salmon is simple. I usually just coat the salmon in a dry brine and throw it in a cool oven for 30 minutes. Because salmon tends to have a distinct taste that I’m not particularly fond of, I like to pair it with strong flavours. This time, I made a deconstructed Thai green curry giving the heat, salt and sweet components to the tender slow roasted salmon and the creamy coconut, fried garlic and kaffir lime flavours to the creamed spinach below.
The inspiration for this one came on a plane somewhere over Georgia. I was flipping through channels on a flight to Miami, when I came across a National Geographic special documenting the journey of sockeye salmon back to their place of birth. After battling their way up river, and past a hungry clan of marauding bears, the females started shooting out eggs like a Gatling gun. Meanwhile the males swam around vibrating and making the “o” face while fertilizing the eggs. It was striking…
I’d imagine that most people might have been grossed out or even offended by the wanton aquatic fornication. A smaller minority may have been mildly curious from a purely clinical point of view. But I’m not right in the head, and I found myself captivated by the imagery on the seatback LCD. All I could think about was how good all those eggs would taste slathered all over some hot rice and how those red fleshed wonders would melt in my mouth after being slow roasted in my oven.
As luck would have it Wholefoods had a case full of ruby red sockeye salmon on sale for $9.99/lb when I got home. The meat-heads behind the counter had mangled the delicate flesh while filleting it, but it was fresh and cheap and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it when I got home…
Slow Roasted Salmon with Coconut Creamed Spinach
1 lbs sockeye salmon
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 tsp oil
10 oz spinach thoroughly cleaned
2 cloves garlic minced
5 kaffir lime leaves sliced into fine chiffonade
Canned coconut milk (just the cream off the top)
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt (less if you use regular salt)
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 200 degrees F. Using tweezers, remove any pin bones from the salmon. Slice the salmon into 2-3 even pieces.
Mash the brown sugar, green curry paste and oil until smooth and spread all over the salmon. Place the fillets onto a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Bake until the thickest part registers 125 F on an instant read thermometer, about 20-30 minutes.
For the spinach, blanch in boiling water until just wilted then drain, rinse under cold water and wring out any excess liquid with your hands. Roughly chop the spinach.
Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add a splash of oil then fry the garlic until it turns brown. Add the kaffir lime leaves and fry for a few seconds.
Provided the can hasn’t been disturbed, there should be a thick layer of coconut cream on the top. Carefully open the can and skim the thick white cream off the top and add it to the pan, you should get about half a can of cream. Add the brown sugar and salt and stir to combine. Add the spinach into the pan to reheat.
To serve, spread a layer of creamed spinach down then top with a piece of slow roasted salmon.