Recipe video above. Have you ever seen a Baked Salmon that looks so festive? What's more, it's DEAD EASY! Featuring a honey butter-glazed side of salmon baked in foil, slathered with creamy dill sauce and finally topped with a glittering Holiday "Tapenade", this Salmon Tarator inspired dish pays extremely high dividends for very little work.See notes for alternatives for many of the ingredients - even the salmon!
Cranberry Plumping Time & Salmon Cooling!30mins
Course: Christmas, Main Course
Keyword: baked salmon, Christmas main, seafood main
1.2 - 1.5 kg / 2.4 - 3lbsalmon side(skin on, bones removed, Note 1)
2 1/4tspsalt, cooking/kosher (Note 2)
Honey Butter Glaze:
150g / 5ozbutter, unsalted
3garlic cloves, finely minced (garlic press or knife)
Creamy Dill Sauce:
1 1/2cupssour cream, full fat (low fat is too watery)
Mix ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Keep refrigerated until required.
Plump cranberries: Heat orange juice in a saucepan over high heat until hot. Turn stove off, add cranberries, cover. Stand 15 minutes, then drain in a colander (discard liquid). Cool.
Mix: Mix cranberries, toasted almonds (see Note 3), parsley, salt and olive oil in bowl. Use at room temp.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (all oven types).
Prepare salmon: Place a large sheet of foil on a tray (double layer for safety is recommended), then top with baking/parchment paper. Place salmon on paper, then fold up the foil sides a bit to cup them so glaze won't run onto tray.
Glaze: Place ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once it started foaming, turn down to medium, let it foam for 2 minutes then remove and pour straight over the salmon.
Season: Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper, putting most of the salt on the thicker part of the salmon.
Wrap: Cover salmon with a smaller piece of paper, then foil. Fold and seal up sides to enclose salmon in a parcel - it doesn't need to be 100% tightly sealed.
Bake 15 minutes. Remove salmon from oven.
Uncover / fold excess paper - Remove paper and foil and paper cover. Fold/scrunch paper and foil sides down to expose salmon surface. Tucking paper down also ensures it won't catch fire when broiling.
Grill/broil to brown: Switch oven to grill/broiler on high. Place salmon on middle shelf in the oven and broil 7 to 10 minutes until you get caramelisation mostly on the edges, a bit on top. Don't put it too close to the heat element otherwise paper might catch on fire! Check to ensure salmon is cooked - either pry open in middle to check or use a probe to check internal temperatures (Note 4).
Transfer to plate: Use foil overhang to transfer salmon onto serving platter straight away (otherwise it keeps cooking). Slide the foil then paper out from under the salmon (see video at 1 min 24s or step photos in post), allowing juices to pool on platter (it's gold stuff!).
Cool: Loosely cover with foil, then leave to cool for at least 15 minutes, up to 1 hour or longer (for room temp serving - Note 6 for serving notes).
Assembly and serving
Dollop then thickly spread with Creamy Dill Sauce (~0.8cm / 1/3" thick layer).
Pile over Holiday Tapenade, scatter generously with pomegranate seeds, and then remaining parsley. Squeeze over lemon juice.
Serving: Serve with extra lemon wedges so people can add more to taste. Cut into pieces - I use a cake cutter for serving. Encourage people to slop up some of the honey-butter sauce that will be mixed with semi melted Creamy Dill Sauce - it's so good! This dish is best served slightly warm, not piping hot, also excellent at room temp.
1. Salmon - Get a whole side of salmon in one piece. It should come with skin on (holds together better for moving once cooked) and bones removed (nobody wants pokey bones with a mouthful of Christmas Salmon!). Place salmon on diagonal of tray if it's too large. A bit of overhang will be fine (on the thinner end). See Note 5 for fillets and trout alternatives.2. Salt - Cooking/kosher salt is the standard for all my recipes. The grains are larger than fine table salt so it's easier to pinch and sprinkle. If you only have table salt, you MUST reduce the salt quantities by 25% otherwise your food may be too salty (because table salt is so fine, 1 tsp table salt =~ 1 1/4 tsp cooking/kosher salt).Cooking/kosher salt is sold labelled as such at the grocery stores - here's a photo of cooking salt and here's a photo of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, a leading brand used in the US(not easily found in Australia).3. Toasting almonds - Preheat skillet over medium heat (no oil). Add nuts then stir for 2 minutes or until they smell amazing and are lightly browned. Keep them moving as they burn easily! Transfer to bowl straight away to cool.4. Cooked salmon - you can just pry open flesh in middle to check. Otherwise, internal temperature of cooked salmon is 43°C / 110°F for rare, 49°C / 120°F for medium-rare, or 54°C/130°F for medium. Grill cooks fast so just leave in for longer if you want it cooked more, move down to lower shelf to reduce browning.No grill/broiler? Just crank the oven up as high as it will go and put salmon in uncovered to brown and finish cooking.5. Alternatives for ingredients (in order of recommendation where multiple given):
Salmon - Trout is an ideal direct sub (though typically smaller, so scale recipe down or use multiple);
Salmon fillets rather than whole side - bake in foil 10 minutes, then grill/broil 10 minutes). Would also be VERY pretty in individual portions so it looks like this.
Smaller salmon side - eg the middle or just the tail end. For anything around 600g / 1.2lb and larger, follow recipe as written in terms of cook times but scale quantities down by clicking Servings and sliding down until you hit the target salmon weight.
Butter - Best is ghee or clarified butter (store bought or homemade) for dairy free alternatives, followed by margarine.
Honey - Maple syrup, but simmer for an extra 1 minute to reduce a bit further
Sour Cream - The only suitable sub is spreadable (tub) cream cheese but that's a bit thick so would need to be thinned with a touch of olive oil to make it in a soft spreadable paste as pictured in the video. If you use block cream cheese, you'd need even more oil for thinning. Yogurt is too watery.
Dill - Classic herb for salmon, but can sub with chives or finely chopped green onions.
Almonds (all should be roasted, unsalted) - Whole (preferably blanched) almonds roughly chopped yourself, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias.
Nut allergy subs - Pepitas or sunflower seeds
Dried cranberries - Craisins, dried sour cherries (roughly chopped), golden raisins*, normal raisins* or sultanas*, any other dried fruit like apricots* chopped (items marked with * add 2 tbsp lemon juice into hot water for plumping, will add touch of tartness like cranberries have)
Orange juice - Apple juice, any other non-thick fruit juice, water + 2 tbsp honey
Parsley - Chives or green onions
Pomegranate - These add colour and juicy little pops to the dish. No fruit provides anything quite similar in terms of colour but for flavour, best is to use red (seedless) grapes. Cut into 1/6 or 1/8, about 3/4 cup. Cherries also work!
Dairy free version - give it a Middle Eastern spin by using hummus instead of sour cream (just be sure it's a nice thick consistency you can slather on), and instead of parsley use fresh coriander/cilantro instead (roughly chopped) and increase to 1/2 cup. It's really, really good, I made it with fillets. It's a Christmasy version of Salmon Tarator, a traditional Middle Eastern dish from which this recipe was inspired.
6. Serving - Dish is best served warm or at room temp, not piping hot. If at room temp, make sure it is still warm enough so honey-butter-salmon juices are liquid not firmed up (if solidified, melt 10 sec in microwave or 2 min in very low 50°C/120°F oven is enough, can do this on serving platter).Do not spread piping hot salmon with sour cream, it melts and slides off.Skin is needed for easy handling of salmon while cooking but it's not pleasant to eat because it's not crisp in this recipe. People can either just avoid eating, or you can portion it without skin (it's easy to slide cake serve between flesh and skin)Be sure to serve with extra lemon wedges, this is a dish that loves fresh lemon!7. Make ahead - Excellent for preparing most ahead with simple assembly on day.
Tapenade - 24 hrs in advance (fridge) but keep toasted almonds in pantry and stir in before serving (few hours ahead is fine), ensure it is at room temp when using.
Creamy Dill Sauce and Honey Glaze - 24 hours ahead, fridge (glaze will need to be reheated to make pourable).
Pomegranates - bash out the seeds the day before! See in post for how;
Salmon - better baked fresh on the day but it is still stellar cooked the day before (based on all leftovers I have been inhaling!). But honestly, reheating cooked salmon is just as much effort as baking fresh, in my opinion!
8. Storage - Leftovers will keep for 3 - 4 days in the fridge. Allow to come naturally to room temperature. Do not microwave or oven reheat, the sour cream will melt.9. Nutrition per serving, assuming 12 servings 1.5kg/3lb salmon. With all the toppings, this is almost a main course size serving. So if it's part of a banquet with other mains, this will easily stretch to 16 - 20 people.