Tsalila (sah-lee-lah) is an event held by local Indian tribal confederations here in the Pacific Northwest. It's a yearly celebration that marks the return of spawning salmon to local rivers. The star of the show is the salmon. A single fish is ceremoniously returned to the sea to appease the old gods and there are, of course, the obligatory drums and dancing for the tourist trade. The highlight of the day is slow cooked salmon, strapped to poles, suspended over cedar embers and roasted to perfection. A hunk of salmon, fry bread, pruny corn and pit roasted potatoes is not a feast of Lucullean proportions, but it is mighty fine grub.
I returned from the festivities with salmon fillets and a plan - not involving poles or open fire - for cooking them. Years ago, Charlie Trotter developed a method for oven roasting salmon at a low (250 degrees F.) temperature. The result was a succulent, tender piece of fish that had glorious color and a melt in the mouth appeal. Helen Rennie and Jaden Hare have helped to popularize the technique and it's one worth keeping in your cooking quiver. It's fast, not too expensive and simple to execute. Today's picture was taken at the end of roasting. Isn't the color fabulous?
Slow Roasted Salmon
4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets
1 bunch scallions, washed and trimmed
1 bunch fresh dill sprigs, divided use
2 to 3 lemons, thinly sliced, divided use
Juice of 1 lemon
2 to 3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1) Bring salmon fillets to room temperature. Adjust a rack to middle third of oven. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Mist an 8 x 11 x 2-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Place scallions in bottom of baking pan to form a bed for the salmon. Cover with dill and lemon slices. Place salmon, skin-side down, on top lemons. Squeeze lemon juice over all. Brush fillets with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly top with more dill and lemon slices. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour if time permits.
3) Bake in preheated oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until fillets can easily be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Carefully transfer to a serving platter. Remove topping and garnish with some fresh dill and a lemon twist. Yield: 4 servings.