Baked Salmon with Corn Bread and Apple Tarts

We lived in Alaska for 13 years where salmon were common. There, fish wheels churned in the rivers, catching salmon on their way to spawn. Most were split and hung on long poles to dry in the sun for winter feed for the dogs.

With my brother, Bob, we put a gill net in the river each fall and collected enough salmon for the winter. There was so much salmon that we took it for granted.  Once we left Alaska, we appreciated the salmon more and now eat it often.

For this menu, we baked salmon fillets and served them with corn bread and steamed vegetables.  For dessert, we chose rustic apple tarts with caramel whipped cream.

You’ll find instructions for baking the salmon below and the links for the corn bread and rustic apple tarts here.

How to Bake Salmon

“Dad’s cooking salmon!” my kids would complain as they walked through the door.  They hated the smell of salmon being fried.

Salmon is a very fatty fish and searing a salmon fillet in a hot skillet does create an odor.  No matter how I fixed it, it was hard to overcome the smell and get my kids to try it.  I eventually overcame most of the objections by baking instead of frying the fish.

Baked salmon has two advantages over salmon cooked on the stovetop: there is less fish odor in your kitchen, and you can stick the fish in the oven, set the timer, and walk away.

It’s easy to bake salmon fillets.  Place the skinned fillets in a shallow baking dish and bake for 12 to 16 minutes at 400 degrees.  (It’s done when it flakes easily with a fork.)   When you remove the pan from the oven, pour off any moisture or remove the fish from the pan so that the fish does not become soggy, and serve.  That’s all there is to it.

Salmon is very versatile.  You can glaze it, marinade, it, cook it in a simmer sauce, and top it with a chutney, salsa, or compote.  You can go sweet or savory as it’s a wonderful palate for spices.  If you prefer to marinade, place the skinned fillets in a zipper-type bag with the marinade and refrigerate for several hours.

For this recipe, we used maple syrup but use whatever you like.

Preparing the Salmon

I usually buy salmon fillets with the skin on.  I never cook the skin; skin imparts too much of a fishy taste.  To remove the skin, lay the fillet skin side down on a cutting board.  Use a long-bladed knife, a knife with a little flex in the blade.  Start at the tail end of the fish and scrape and cut the fillet away from the skin.  A little practice and you’ll find this easy.  Cut away any belly fat.  Your salmon is ready for cooking.

Maple Glazed Salmon with Spicy Maple Cream Syrup

We love salmon, and this sweet and spicy sauce pairs perfectly with the fish.

Baking the fish eliminates the odor that often is created when salmon is cooked on the stovetop.  The marinade assures that it will be moist and tender.  It is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

The fresh ginger and the mustard add a spicy kick to the sweetness of the syrup.  Taste the sauce before you use it and alter the ingredients to get the balance you like.  Remember that when you cook the ginger, the flavor will intensify.

We first made the sauce without the cream.  The cream improves it, blending and tempering the flavors.

Ingredients

1 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard or a whipped mustard
4 salmon filets with the skin removed, about 10 ounces each
salt and pepper
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Mix the maple syrup, lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, and mustard together.  Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture in the refrigerator.
  2. With the remaining mixture, marinate the fish by placing the fillets in a sealable plastic bag with the mixture, sealing, and refrigerating for several hours.
  3. To prepare the fish, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the fish in a shallow baking dish.  Baste the fish with the marinade from the bag.  Salt and pepper each fillet.  (The soy sauce in the marinade will add a bit of sodium but not much.)
  4. Bake the fish for a total of 12 to 16 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  After the fish has baked for 8 minutes, open the oven door and sprinkle the fish with nuts.  Close the door and bake for another two minutes.  Do not over bake.
  5. While the fish is baking, prepare the sauce from the 1/2 cup marinade set aside mixture.  Place the cornstarch in a small bowl or cup.  Add just enough marinade to make a thick paste of the cornstarch.  Gradually stir in the rest.  Remove the sauce mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a whisk, until the sauce begins to bubble and is thickened.  Stir in the cream.  Set aside.
  6. When the fish is done, immediately remove the fillets to serving plates and drizzle with the prepared sauce.

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