Food and Drink

This sheet pan salmon will make you excited about defrosting Alaska fish in March

I know what’s in your freezer right now, Alaska. I see that couple pounds of salmon from last season lurking under the toaster waffles, not being fresh or inspiring. I’ve been to your lackluster produce sections too. Aside from citrus and hydroponic herbs, what’s most reliable are winter vegetables and Brussels sprouts. Except you’re kind of over them. I was too. Then I started making this recipe.

Here’s a bold promise: this easy/delicious sheet pan salmon with hot honey-mustard, sweet dates, fresh herbs and a tangy yogurt drizzle will make you excited about defrosting fish in March. And, if you’re cooking for a family on a busy night, you’ll have this dinner on the table in 30 minutes with minimal dishes.

You can get all the produce you need for this just about anywhere, including Costco. Dates can be found in most produce sections. You can really localize it if you’d like — use local honey, carrots and herbs. Multicolored carrots look fancy, but nothing is sweeter than Alaska carrots if you can still get some. You can also sub in other roots cut to the same size, like parsnips or peeled beets. You can increase the roots and skip Brussels too, if they aren’t your thing.

I sometimes serve this with couscous — which is very quick to make. When I cook for a multigenerational crowd, I omit the cayenne and serve it with harissa so people can control their own heat. If you can get your hands on preserved lemons, thinly slicing those and sprinkling them on the sheet instead of fresh lemons is wonderful.

Hot honey sheet pan salmon with dates and yogurt drizzle

(Serves 4-5)

Ingredients:

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1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1 tablespoon chile powder

Up to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, to taste (optional)

3 + 2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 to 2 pounds carrots, any color, peeled, quartered longways and sliced into bite-sized sticks

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved

Two tablespoons olive oil

1 to 1 1/2 pounds salmon, thawed, portioned into four to six servings

1/2 cup pitted dates, sliced longways

3/4 cup plain yogurt

Juice of half a lemon

Salt

To garnish: One cup roughly chopped soft herbs like parsley, cilantro or mint; thin lemon slices; harissa if desired.

Optional: 2 1/2 cups quick-cooking couscous, prepared to package directions

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Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line one full-sized — fills the whole oven — sheet pan or two half-sized pans with parchment. Lay the carrots and Brussels sprouts out to roast on the pan(s). They should be in a single layer, not touching. You should also leave room for the salmon portions, which you’ll add later. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Slide them into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. Prepare the honey sauce. In a small bowl, mix mustard, honey, melted butter, chili powder, cayenne, three cloves of crushed garlic and salt. If you’re making couscous, you should put it on about now. Once the timer goes off, pull the pan(s) out. Gently flip the vegetables. Drizzle about one-third of the honey sauce on them, favoring the carrots. Sprinkle the dates among the vegetables. Place the salmon portions on the sheet pan(s), cover them well with the remaining sauce. Slide back in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Prepare the yogurt drizzle. In a small bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic. Salt to taste. When the timer goes off, check the doneness of the salmon with a fork. Leave in a minute or two more if necessary. When the salmon is ready, pull out the sheet pan(s), drizzle with a few tablespoons of yogurt sauce, sprinkle with herbs and thinly sliced lemon. Serve with couscous, harissa and remaining yogurt sauce.

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.

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