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Slow-Roasted Salmon with Huckleberry Barbecue Sauce

Updated on October 25, 2020
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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Do you have a fear of fish?

I'm not talking about a fear of seeing fish, touching fish, or swimming with fish.

Do you fear cooking fish?

You're not alone. I have many friends who will not attempt to cook fish (other than baking fish sticks in the oven). And the reasons they give are:

  • How do I know if it's fresh?
  • How do I know if it's "done"?
  • I tried it once and I over-cooked it
  • It smells bad.

But, if you don't cook fish at home you are depriving yourself of a wonderfully fresh, healthy, and economical dish for your family.

How do I know if it's fresh?

There are definite signs that fish is fresh. Fresh fish should have a mild scent and moist flesh, and appear freshly cut. If your salmon smells somewhat sour or anything like ammonia, it has gone bad and you need to toss it. Fresh salmon has a mild aroma, or one that smells similar to the sea.Don't purchase fish that has a strong, fishy odor. If you touch the flesh, it should spring back. When an indentation of your thumb or finger stays, then the fish is old and is breaking down from the inside out.After purchasing fresh salmon, you need to get it into the refrigerator within two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria, which will quickly spoil it. Raw salmon lasts for up to two days when stored in the refrigerator at just under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the EatByDate website

How do I know if it's done?

Many cookbooks will tell you to cook fish 10 minutes for every inch of thickness (so if a piece of fish is 2 inches thick you would cook it for 20 minutes). That doesn't work--and here's why.

After you remove your fish from the oven, pan, or grill, residual heat (the heat that is trapped in the flesh and in the pan) continues to cook the fish. So fish that is "done" after 10 minutes actually gets a bit more cooking--and so ends up being over-cooked and dried out.

My rule of thumb is 8 minutes--and it works every time.


I Tried it Once and Overcooked It

According to Fine Cooking Magazine "use the tip of a small knife to peek at the interior of the fish".

Many cookbooks tell you to cook fish until it flakes; this is too long. Once it flakes, the fish has lost too much moisture and will be dry and bland. See how easily the fish gives way. It should gently resist flaking but show signs of firming. If the fish is on the bone, the flesh should lightly resist pulling away from the bone. Raw fish has a translucent appearance that turns opaque during cooking. Most types of fish are considered done when they're just opaque throughout. Many people, however, enjoy some types of fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, a little less done. These should be opaque on the outside but still translucent at the center.".

It Smells Bad

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Fresh fish should not "smell bad". It should either have a fresh (think ocean breeze) aroma or no smell at all. If it smells like ammonia (or worse), toss it out.

However, you can create an amazing recipe with fresh-from-the-sea fish, and still be left with a room/house that smells...well, fishy!

What to do?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • open the windows
  • brew some coffee
  • bring a small pot of water to boil on the stove. Add some lemon (or any other citrus) peel, cinnamon, cloves, or allspice to the water. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Leave out a bowl of vinegar--a small bowl of vinegar set next to the stove is very useful in reducing odors from frying fish and other foods. Leave the vinegar out for several hours.

Now that you know...

...here is a recipe for roasting a piece of salmon. It will not be smelly. It will not overcook, and I assure you that it will be "done".

Equipment you will need

  • shallow roasting pan
  • parchment paper
  • pastry brush (for applying oil to salmon filet--helpful but not mandatory)
  • medium-size saucepan

Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 35 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients for slow-roasted salmon

  • 1 3-pound salmon filet
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions for salmon

  • While the barbecue sauce (see below) is cooling...
  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Line a shallow roasting pan with parchment paper
  • Place the salmon filet, skin side down, on the parchment.
  • Brush the olive oil on the salmon and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Allow the filet to sit for about 30 minutes to come to room temperature (this is very important!)
  • Roast the salmon until firm, about 30 to 40 minutes. Spread a thin layer of barbecue sauce on the salmon in the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Use the remainder of the barbecue sauce to spoon over the salmon, or provide as a dipping sauce.

Ingredients for barbecue sauce

  • 2 cups fresh huckleberries or blueberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced onion

Instructions for barbecue sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until berries are softened.
  2. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

© 2014 Linda Lum

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