Salmon fillets are not that easy to cook. Well, they’re easy to cook, but not that easy to cook properly. If baking is your method of choice, and in the winter time, grilling is not always an option, this method will give your salmon fillets a crusty brown exterior, rendered fat, and a moist interior with an easy relish served alongside for even more flavor. People will think you’re an expert – because you are!

Oven-Roasted Salmon

Serves 4

1 medium orange

3 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

1 whole skin-on center cut salmon fillet (about 2 lbs. and 1½ inches at thickest part)

2 tsp. olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. olive oil

½ medium red onion, diced

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack and heat oven to 500 degrees.

While oven is heating, grate 1 teaspoon peel from orange. Cut off remaining peel and pith and discard. Cut orange into ¼-inch pieces. Mix orange pieces and zest with chopped mint in small bowl, and set aside.

Using a sharp fillet knife cut the salmon fillet into 4 equal pieces. Make 4 or 5 shallow slashes about an inch apart along skin-side of each piece.

Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Rub fillets evenly with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. When oven reaches 500 degrees, remove baking dish and reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees. Carefully place salmon fillets skin-side down on baking sheet. They should sizzle when placed on the baking sheet. Immediately place fillets in oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until they just begin to brown. Remove from heat and deglaze with vinegar. Combine onion mixture with orange mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.

After 10 to 12 minutes baking time, check salmon fillets in the centers of the thickest part of fillets that they are still slightly translucent when cut into with paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees. Just don’t overcook it.

Transfer fillets to individual plates or a platter. Top with orange relish and serve.

Although this dish could pair well with chardonnay, I often turn to pinot noir with salmon. Try Dierberg’s 2014 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir (Dierberg Vineyard).

2014 was a terrific vintage for this pinot. Sensible harvest timing along with judicious stem inclusion (25% on average) and less new oak assist in striking that balance of increasing supple qualities to support a vineyard that wants to produce broader textures with evoking the dark cherry fruit qualities the vineyard produces at its best. A nice compliment both to the fish and the relish.


John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at