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On a recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska for a cruise, I enjoyed one of my most memorable meals at the restaurant The Crow's Nest. Chef de Cuisine Reuben Gerber could match any great chef in the lower 48 with his creative combinations and passionate use of local foods. I enjoyed an array of flavorful seafood dishes such as oysters topped with a melon and coriander sorbet and Alaskan salmon with puree of cauliflower and ramps. Freshly caught Alaskan salmon is like no other you will ever taste. If you have plans to visit Anchorage, don't miss dinner at The Crow's Nest.
Alaskan salmon it is now in season. Look for it specifically because you won't have to worry if it is farm-raised. It is illegal to farm salmon in the state. The term wild salmon means that the fish are free range and can complete their natural life cycle without being penned and fed artificial foods. You can see why this is preferable.
Back home, I tried a Chef Gerber recipe and loved it. I became aware that there are many different cooking methods for salmon. For years I would prepare salmon only one way -- by poaching it. Once I discovered the virtues (less messy and moister) of slow roasting salmon, I never looked back. You'll find that this cooking technique gives salmon a creamy, moist texture. This is an ideal summer dish. You can serve it warm or chilled. When chilled, the salmon makes a refreshing main course. The sweet mustard-dill sauce is a re-creation of the Konditori dill sauce that I enjoyed on open-faced sandwiches and cold salmon when I was growing up.
The clever cook could:
--Add 1/2 cup of chopped European cucumber to the aioli.
--Replace the mayonnaise in the aioli with 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of yogurt to lighten it up.
--Use the salmon to top mixed greens and cherry tomatoes for a salmon salad.
--Accompany the salmon with a fresh summer salsa made with sautéed fresh corn kernels and shallots, basil and raw chopped tomato.
--Double the recipe for a large party and serve the fish fillets one at a time. When the first platter starts to look messy, switch it out for the new one.
Whole Slow-Roasted Salmon with Sweet Mustard-Dill Aioli
Serves 6 as a main course and up to 12 for a large buffet with other dishes.
Sweet Mustard-Dill Aioli:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup honey mustard
1 tablespoon good-quality white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill weed
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
One 3-pound salmon fillet, skin removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Fresh parsley sprigs for garnish
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
1. To make the aioli: Combine all ingredients in a small serving bowl and mix to blend. Taste for seasoning and chill until serving.
2. Preheat the oven to 275 F. Rub both sides of the salmon with the seasoning and olive oil, and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
3. Place the salmon, skin-side down, on a nonstick or foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 26 to 32 minutes, depending upon the thickness, until flaky and just cooked through. The salmon will appear very moist. If serving cold, let the salmon cool in the pan.
4. Transfer the salmon in one piece to a serving platter using spatulas. Or cut the salmon into serving pieces and arrange on a platter. Either way, garnish with parsley and lemon slices.
Make Ahead: The salmon can be cooked and refrigerated up to 1 day before serving. The sauce can be prepared, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Holidays," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)