Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baked Salmon

Adapted from Make It Easy in Your Kitchen by Laurie Burrows Grad

Francie, who was the press secretary to Governor Jane Hull of Arizona, and I have been best friends ever since the day in my sophomore year of high school when I was moved from 10-6 to 10-2. I reluctantly walked into my new class for the first time to be confronted with a classmate in tears because Robert Frost had died.

I thought I would miss the friends I left behind in my original homeroom, but I was lucky enough to make six new friends to eat lunch with every school day for the next three years!

It was an all-girl's catholic high school.  We could not tease our hair, apply makeup, or wear our skirts above our knees.  Francie and I took creative writing, straightened our hair, and hid a tube of white frosted lipstick in the pockets of our blazers. We saw Buffy St. Marie perform at Wollman in Central Park then stayed up all night playing her records. We saw Far From the Madding Crowd and thought running away with Terence Stamp was a very good idea.

We went to the Beatles' second ever U.S. concert - the one at Carnegie Hall - when we were juniors in high school, and one Saturday when we were tooling around the Gallery of Modern Art at Two Columbus Circle, Huntington Hartford introduced himself to us and gave us a private tour of the museum.

We sat together with our dates at our senior prom, threw our caps in the air at graduation, and spent that summer visiting my relatives in England and her godfather in Paris.  She was a bridesmaid in my wedding.

Bridesmaids Left to Right - Francie, Beth, Pumfey

A few weeks ago she came to NYC for a visit. We went to the Model as Muse exhibit at The Met and looked at the same pictures of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy that we looked at all those years ago. We thought those pictures were just as beautiful now as we thought they were then.

When I asked what she wanted for dinner the first night she was here, Fran said "salmon," so off we went to the local fish store. The farmed salmon was $16.99 a pound, and the wild salmon was $31.99. That's quite a difference, but for the two of us, I was happy to spring for the wild because I know ecologically it is more sound - without question way better for the environment. The problem was it didn't look fresh. At all. And the farmed salmon looked beautiful.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Had it been just for me, I would have passed on the salmon. But since I really wanted to make it for her, I caved. And I have to admit, it was delicious.

But I won't do it again.

If the wild salmon is over my budget, I will get half the amount or eat it half the number of times that month, and if it doesn't look fresh, I just won't buy it. And I will frequent stores that sell a lot of it. Last Friday at the uptown Fairway, the wild salmon was beautiful and $14.99 a pound!

Baking is a good way to cook salmon. It stays moist and delicious, is less messy than sauteing, and doesn't leave its smell lingering around the house the next day the way searing does. You can also use this recipe for salmon steaks and halibut steaks.

The great thing about mixing butter with oil for a marinade is that the butter starts to solidify at room temperature, making the marinade cling to the fish.

Baked Salmon
Adapted from Make It Easy in Your Kitchen by Laurie Burrows Grad

Serves 4


4 1-1/2 to 2-inch-wide salmon fillets, skin on
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of Hungarian sweet paprika


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic (optional)

Place the fish on a platter. Combine the melted butter with the olive oil and minced garlic, if using, and pour over the fish. (If you are going to chill the salmon to serve cold, use 4 tablespoons of olive oil and omit the butter.)  Sprinkle the fish with sea salt, white pepper, and a pinch of Hungarian sweet paprika. Let it marinate for 1/2 hour at room temperature, rolling it over in the marinade once.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of a baking pan, and lightly coat it with olive oil. Put the fish in the pan skin side down, baste it with the marinade clinging to the platter, and bake for about 15 minutes, being careful not to overcook it. The amount of time will depend on the thickness of the fish.

When you remove the fish from the pan with a spatula, the skin will stay behind.

Serve immediately with a small amount of sauce on top of each fillet.

Print Recipe


  1. What a great story Vic. I have been thinking a lot about the importance of those life-long friendships formed in our teens and early twenties. My girlfriends are the silk thread connecting the story of my life.

    Thanks for this... and as always, the mouth-watering recipe. Now, if only I could find the time to bake my girlfriends some salmon. Correction: Make the time. Make the time.

    Happy Summer - Michaela

  2. Dear Victoria
    I check your blog pretty regularly and am always pleased when there is a new entry, not so much for the recipes, as my cooking skills are modest, but for the stories you tell around the meals. They are lovely.

    In reading of your visit from an old friend, I am reminded that we had promised to stay in better touch and in this we have been remiss. I will send you an e-mail later this week and see if we can remedy this.



  3. Your baked salmon looks delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe :)

  4. Ok. Love love love the imagery of you and your friends. What a fabulous thing good friends are.


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