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Baked Whole Salmon with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

(recipe, Braiden Rex-Johnson)

Introduction

There's something ceremonial and celebratory about serving a whole baked fish, and this classic Vietnamese interpretation from the Market's very own Saigon Restaurant is one of the easiest and best.

Ingredients

    Baked Whole Salmon
    1. ½ tsp. salt
    2. ¼ tsp. freshly ground white pepper
    3. 2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
    4. 2 Tbsp. dry white wine or chicken broth
    5. 1 salmon (4 pounds total), gutted
    6. 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    7. 2 quarter-size slices ginger root, smashed with the flat part of a knife blade and julienned
    8. 6 to 8 green onions, white part julienned, green part cut into ¼-inch slices and reserved
    9. 3 Tbsp. peanut or sesame oil
    Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
    1. ¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc nam)
    2. 1 garlic clove, crushed
    3. 1 Thai chile, seeded and minced
    4. 2 tsp. sugar
    5. 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

    Steps

    1. Place a sheet of aluminum foil lengthwise across a baking sheet, extending the foil 8 to 10 inches beyond the ends of the sheet. Place a second sheet of foil widthwise across the baking sheet, again allowing 8 to 10 inches of excess foil on each side. Set aside.
    2. In a small mixing bowl or glass jar with a lid, combine the salt, white pepper, soy sauce, and white wine or broth to make the seasoning mix. Stir or shake well to combine, and set aside.
    3. Rinse the fish under cold running water, being especially careful to remove any blood remaining in the stomach cavity. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place the fish on the foil-lined baking sheet.
    4. With a sharp knife, make 6 to 8 diagonal scores from top to bottom on both sides of the fish, about ¼ inch deep. Rub the seasoning mix into the sides of the fish and into the stomach cavity. Stuff the cuts with the garlic, ginger, and green onion julienne. Sprinkle the fish with any remaining garlic, ginger, and green onion julienne. Carefully fold the sides of the foil over the fish to seal the fish tightly. Let the foil-wrapped fish sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
    5. Ten minutes before you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the flesh is firm and rosy, but still juicy at the base of the cuts.
    6. While the fish is baking, place all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and set aside.
    7. Remove from the oven and fold back top of the foil to expose the fish. Return the fish to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the fish just flakes. Remove the fish from the foil and transfer to a large serving platter.
    8. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the reserved green onion slices and cook for 5 to 10 seconds, stirring continuously. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the flavored oil over the fish. (See Note, below.)
    9. Serve the whole fish at the table with dipping sauce.

    Note

    The technique of using a hot seasoned oil over steamed or baked fish is known as flavor smoothing and helps force the flavors of the seasoning into the fish. You can vary the flavor of the seasoned oil by substituting minced garlic, chopped fresh basil leaves, or chopped cilantro.