It’s a tip I learned from a friend of mine a few years ago, and one I still prize: when having a large group over for dinner, roast salmon. The whole salmon.
More than a main course, whole roasted salmon is a centrepiece, gigantic and silvered. It’s also a participatory spectacle: people dig in, seek out belly fat or tender cheeks, flip the fish over in unison after one side has been picked clean. It’s a gleeful mess. There’s something primal and communal and bonding in the shared eating of such a fish.
Salmon can be seasoned in a million different ways, but because summer is approaching, Provençal flavours feel especially appropriate. In this preparation, the fish is roasted on a bed of fennel and onion that’s doused in glugs of vermouth. Tarragon perfumes it with its anise scent, and several additions of orange - zest, slices, even orange-infused olive oil - recall sunnier climes.
Speaking of orange: it’s also one of the reasons this salmon works so well with Bright Future, which Hop Burns & Black brewed in collaboration with Elusive Brewing. This blood orange blossom saison also makes use of orange juice and zest, as well as orange blossom honey. It’s yeasty, citrusy, and fantastically quenching.
It’s also ephemeral. Make the most of this limited-edition beauty then, and invite a big group over for dinner. Preferably friends who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
Whole Roasted Salmon with Orange, Fennel, and Provençal Herbs
1 3-kilo salmon
3 fennel bulbs, sliced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 tbs Maldon sea salt, plus more to season
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
8 tbs olive oil, divided
4 tbs white vermouth (I used Cinzano Bianco)
25g flat-leaf parsley, divided
25g tarragon, divided
25g dill, divided
Orange-infused olive oil (optional)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees C. Line your largest roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. Add the sliced onion and fennel, and sprinkle over with the sea salt and black pepper. Pour over 4 tbs of the olive oil and the white vermouth.
Take half of your parsley, tarragon, and dill, and chop finely. Zest your oranges (preferably with a Microplane grater, so you don’t remove any of the bitter pith), and mix with the chopped herbs.
Meanwhile, prep your salmon. Pat the inside and outside dry with paper towel. Ensure it’s been fully scaled (if there are any remaining scales, scrape the back of your knife against the grain of the scales to remove). On an angle, make five long, 2cm-deep slits in the salmon’s side with a sharp knife. In each slit, add extra sea salt to season, as well as your chopped herb and orange zest mixture. Sprinkle sea salt across the salmon’s skin and flip, repeating the same steps on the other side of the salmon.
Season the salmon’s cavity generously with sea salt. Slice the two oranges that you zested and place the slices with the cavity, as well as the remaining herbs. Pour the remaining 4 tbs of olive oil over the salmon.
Add your salmon to your very hot oven and cook for 15 minutes - salmon is a fatty fish and will smoke, so make sure your kitchen is well ventilated. If your salmon drapes over the edges of your roasting pan and threatens to touch the edges of your oven, cover those exposed bits in foil to prevent scorching.
After 15 minutes have passed, lower the heat to 180 degrees C and cook the salmon for approximately 20 more minutes, covering loosely with foil if it begins to look too dark. After 20 minutes, remove the salmon carefully from the oven. Use Jamie Oliver’s method and check to see if it’s cooked through: stick a small knife in the thickest part of the salmon, behind its head. Leave for several seconds before removing the knife and feeling for heat; if it’s warm, the salmon is cooked. If not, return to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes of cooking time.
Once the salmon is cooked through, remove from the oven and serve alongside the roasted fennel and onion; you can serve it with spinach and lentils on the side if you wish. Drizzle with orange-infused olive oil.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. Pick up some of our succulent collab while stocks last in store or at our online shop.