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Fast Food My Way: Oven-Baked Salmon with Sun-Dried Tomato and Salsa Mayonnaise

Very rich, very tasty, and very easy. The salmon is slowly baked in the oven while you make the accompanying sauce. This would be a lovely dish to serve for a holiday brunch, since you can put it in the oven and ignore it for nearly an hour while it cooks. It can be served warm, or at room temperature, which makes it a nice option for a buffet.

I did have to cook it longer, and at a higher temperature, than is called for in the original recipe. Jacques Pépin notes that he likes the salmon "slightly rare inside," but even after I had cooked it for 45 minutes at 200 degrees, it was still basically sushi. I raised the oven temperature to 300 degrees and cooked it for an additional 20 minutes, or until it was fully cooked, since I don't like rare salmon. I recommend cooking the fish at 300 degrees, and you should start checking it for your preferred level of doneness at about 30 minutes of cooking time.

The sun-dried tomato mayonnaise makes use of the Red Hot Salsa that's served with Pépin's chicken and cauliflower recipe. All you need to do, if you already have the salsa made, is throw together some sun-dried tomatoes and mayonnaise, and you've got a rich, tasty sauce for the salmon. You could also use fresh salsa from the grocery store.

Because the salmon has a nutty breadcrumb topping and is served with a very rich sauce, I recommend that you serve it with simple accompaniments. For dinner, it would be lovely with plain couscous and steamed green beans. With brunch, a simple green salad or steamed asparagus would go well with the fish, as well as fresh fruit and an assortment of bread.

The recipe as written calls for a 3-pound piece of salmon, which is a lot. It will serve about 12 people. To make this recipe for 4 servings, use a 12- to 16-oz. piece of fish, and monitor the cooking time closely, since it will probably require less time in the oven.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 1 hour
Yield: 12 servings

1 tsp canola oil
1 skinless, boneless salmon fillet (about 3 pounds)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 slice firm white sandwich bread
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs (a mixture of parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil, or other herbs, as desired)

Salsa Mayonnaise
4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup Red Hot Salsa (recipe below), or fresh store-bought salsa
1/4 tsp salt (if necessary)
2 cups mayonnaise
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Oil a baking dish (such as a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex dish) with the oil. Place the salmon in the dish and sprinkle it with 3/4 tsp of the salt and 1/2 tsp of the pepper. Turn the salmon over and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

To make the crumbs: Process the bread slice in the food processor until you have fine crumbs. Remove, then process the hazelnuts until ground to the texture of coarse cornmeal. Combine the bread crumbs and hazelnuts.

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the salmon. Bake it for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how you want it cooked. Check for desired doneness after the first 30 minutes. Remove when nearly cooked to your satisfaction, and let rest. The salmon will continue to cook for a few minutes after it is removed from the oven.

For the Salsa Mayonnaise: Put the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil in a food processor with the salsa. Process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the salt (if necessary -- taste first, since some sun-dried tomatoes are salty), mayonnaise, and chives.

To serve: Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the top of the salmon. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the mayonnaise alongside.

Red Hot Salsa
2 cups diced (1/2-inch) ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup minced jalapeño or serrano pepper (use more or less depending to how hot you want the salsa)
1/3 cup chopped onion, rinsed under cold water (or use green onions, which need no rinsing)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp finely chopped or pressed garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.



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