Since the vegetarians in my family don’t object to fish, seafood in some form tends to be the centerpiece of holiday meals. For Christmas this year it was a hefty side of Scottish salmon. Farmed salmon, yes, but don’t dismiss it—properly raised, farmed salmon is an excellent choice and environmentally speaking far more sustainable than conventional beef or pork or, for that matter, most turkey.
This particular salmon was raised at Loch Duart, way up in the northwest of Scotland, and I know from having visited the site that no antibiotics or growth hormones are fed to the fish nor are they raised in crowded cages. (Nick Joy, who runs the place, wouldn’t be able to produce such high-quality salmon if he didn’t practice this kind of quality control.)
I could have just roasted the salmon with the usual garlic, olive oil, and white wine but I wanted to experiment with something more adventurous. Christmas, after all, comes but once a year. So, with Handel’s Messiah ringing out in the background, I made what I thought of as a Moroccan sort of marinade—salt-preserved lemons chopped up with parsley, a little garlic, a couple of pinches of powdered cumin, the last of my precious piment d’Espelette, a sprinkle of fennel pollen, and just enough olive oil to make a spreadable balm for the salmon. Set the salmon skin side down in a lightly oiled oven dish, spread the “Moroccan” marinade over the top, and left it for a couple of hours. Then baked it very slowly in a 300º oven for about 20 minutes—slow-cooked salmon is the new comme il faut for this rich and succulent fish. With the salmon cooked through but still fresh and pink in the center, I ran it under a hot broiler just long enough to glaze the Moroccan part. It was easy and extremely delicious and there was enough left over to send the vegetarians home with slow-cooked salmon à la marocaine for Boxing Day.