It's All About That Sauce

Take your salmon from good to great.

Greetings dinner makers! I want to get right down to business here and tell you about this salmon we made the other night. It was so good, so exactly the fresh, healthy hit I needed on a Sunday night, after a stretch of soups and stews and braisey, warm-your-bones kinda dishes.

The salmon preparation could not be more basic — it requires only salt, pepper, olive oil, and a hot oven — but here is where things get exciting: The sauce. And when I say sauce, I don’t mean, like, a béchamel or a Romesco or Grandma’s 8-hour Sunday gravy. I mean the most un-intimidating, quick-whisking of a few things you probably don’t even have to shop for: plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, dill (or whatever fresh herb you’ve got), prepared horseradish, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. In fact, as I type this, I feel like I should reframe the whole recipe and call it Yogurt with Savory Mix-ins or something. Because that’s what it feels like I’m doing when I make it.

I’m addicted to the way the tangy, herby coolness of this sauce contrasts with the crispy, roasty depth of the fish. We’ve been making some version of the salmon for years (always the most excellent sign) and usually serve it with spicy roasted potatoes and a green salad. But in case you’ve read this far and decided somehow that you want the whole thing to be even easier, I’m including another tried-and-true method: Salmon cooked in parchment paper (en papillote for the sticklers), where you wrap up each individual fish piece with the greens and the potatoes like a little present, instead of cooking everything separately.

Either way, make the sauce! You’ll be so happy you did.

Herby Mustard Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole or low-fat)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, as needed

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Taste and add more salt and pepper was needed. (I like it peppery.) Sometimes I add a drizzle of olive oil if I want to thin it out a bit.

Serve with either salmon recipe below.

Method 1: Classic Roast Salmon

1 1/2 pound salmon filet
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
yogurt sauce (above)

Heat oven to 425°F. Place the salmon filet on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Start testing it after 12 minutes by very gently pressing on the thickest part with a spatula or a spoon - it should be a little firm, not jiggly at all.

While your salmon roasts, make yogurt sauce.

Divide salmon into four pieces and serve dolloped generously with salt alongside roast potatoes and a green salad.

Method 2: Salmon in Parchment

1 bunch kale, center ribs and stems removed, torn into 2-inch pieces, or flat-leaf spinach, thick stems removed
6 red potatoes, unpeeled, very thinly sliced
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
4 6-ounce salmon filets
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, seeded and sliced into very thin horizontal rounds
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
yogurt sauce (above)

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Lay 4 large rectangular pieces of parchment paper on a work surface. Place a few kale leaves on each sheet and top with potatoes, shallots, then salmon; season with salt and pepper. Top the fish with lemon slices; drizzle with the oil. Fold the parchment over the fish, crimp the edges tightly to form a sealed packet, and fold the side overhang underneath the packet. Or, just think about how the deli guy wraps your hero* and do that.

Place the packets on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

While your salmon packets are roasting, make the yogurt sauce.

Carefully open salmon packets (the steam will be hot) and top with the yogurt sauce.

*SEE also: hoagie, wedge, grinder, sub

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Thanks for reading, everyone! See you in a few days.

Top photo credit: Chelsea Cavanaugh for How to Celebrate Everything.