- Ken Perrotte
Baked King Salmon with a Tuscan Cream Sauce - Fresh, Wild-Caught Fish from Lake Ontario
Preface: An invitation to fish for a few days in the Niagara Falls, New York, area in early May 2023 was too good to pass up. The sheer diversity of species in the area is incredible and it’s a perfect time of the season to catch some fish that are delicious on the grill or smoker – including salmon, walleye, lake trout and brown trout.
We didn’t keep any lakers or browns but did catch and keep several king salmon, hard-fighting fish that were a blast to catch in both Lake Ontario and the Niagara Bar, the place where the Lower Niagara River empties in the lake.
All Ken did was catch the fish. Maria and Jennifer Josselyn (our co-authors here) did the hard work of researching recipes and doing the cooking. This baked salmon with a Tuscan cream sauce, roasted fresh asparagus, couscous and crusty French bread was fantastic. Try it with either your store-bought salmon or, ideally, your wild-caught salmon, especially the ones from Lake Ontario. There are many guides who can take you out for an amazing experience. For a full rundown of things to do in the Niagara Falls area, see https://www.niagarafallsusa.com.
Here's how you make it!
Everything is prepared very simply and then topped with a delicious sauce, which makes this dish special. Green beans could be used instead of asparagus. We kept the skin on for baking and then removed it before serving.
Sauté 2 or 3 minced garlic cloves in a little olive oil until soft. Add ½-cup chicken broth and a cup of heavy cream or Half-and-Half and simmer over medium low heat until sauce begins to thicken. Add a cup or two of fresh spinach and ½-cup chopped sundried tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and stir in ½-to-1-cup grated parmesan cheese. Grate the cheese yourself – don’t use the pre-grated stuff. If you want to, you can thicken it with a little corn starch slurry, but we didn’t find that necessary. Add cracked black pepper and salt to taste. Whatever you do, never let the sauce boil during the process. Keep it at a low simmer, stirring occasionally. You don’t want your sauce to “break;” it needs to stay nicely fused.
Prepare according to direction on package. Keep warm and moist.
Wash the stalks and trim the tough end of the asparagus. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until tender. (Can add to oven with fish, giving the fish about 5-minute head start.)
Salmon should be filleted with the skin left on. Prep the salmon by removing any small bones and cutting the fillets into similar size pieces. Season with salt and pepper and place skin side down on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet that has been drizzled with a little olive oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Brush a small amount of olive oil over the fillets. Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets, at 400 degrees or until done. Don’t overcook! The easiest way to tell if salmon is done is to press lightly on the fillet. If the flesh flakes, it’s done. Check temperature with a meat thermometer if needed. Salmon is done at 145 degrees but can be cooked up to 160 if desired. Use a thin knife to remove the skin before serving the fish over the couscous with asparagus on the side. Top the fish with the sauce being sure to get a little of the spinach and tomatoes on the plate. A couple sliced cherry tomatoes can add color. Crusty bread and a dry chardonnay round out the meal. A decadent no-bake cheesecake with a blackberry coulis, made from berries grown in our yard, was a perfect finish to the meal.
We made the couscous ahead, then started the sauce and kept it at a very low simmer, adding ingredients as we cooked the asparagus and salmon. We prepped the salmon and put it in the oven and then prepped the asparagus, giving the salmon a 5-minute head start in the oven.