We've noticed that fish seems to intimidate many home cooks. They're afraid of overcooking it, undercooking it, or otherwise ruining an expensive dinner. This method of cooking salmon is the place to start for a cook intimidated by fish, because the process is truly foolproof; there's almost no way to mess it up.
The keys are the low baking temperature and the olive oil. The fish basically poaches in a very shallow pool of olive oil, protected from the heat by the oil below and a paste of herbs on top.
Together the oil and the herbs keep the fish from overbaking, so even if it cooks for 5 minutes too long, it will still be moist, tender, and falling apart on the fork.
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Foolproof Salmon Baked with Olive Oil & Herbs
plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pound
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
large shallot, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)
(loosely packed) fresh dill fronds
(loosely packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley or tarragon leaves
Zest of 1 lemon
Heat the oven to 250°F. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a small baking pan such as a round cake pan, just large enough to hold the entire piece of salmon. Lay the salmon skin-side down in the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Blend the shallot, dill, parsley, and lemon zest in a food chopper or small food processor. (Alternately, chop the shallot and herbs very fine and mix thoroughly with the other ingredients.) Blend in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pat this herb paste over the salmon.
Bake the salmon for 22 to 28 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon fillet. To check for doneness, insert the tines of a fork into the thickest part of the fillet and gently pull. If the fish flakes easily, then it is done. If it is still gooey, and if the fork is difficult to pull out, bake the salmon for 5 more minutes and check again.
To serve the salmon, gently slide a spatula under the fish and remove it to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the fillet into four equal pieces. If desired, lift the fish away from the skin to serve. Serve with rice or fresh bread and a generous green salad.
Reprinted from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand. Copyright © 2014. Property of Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.