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Roasted salmon fillet is a grand centerpiece

If you want a centerpiece dish that commands your dinner guests' attention this holiday season, try a whole roasted fillet of salmon.

If you want a centerpiece dish that commands your dinner guests' attention this holiday season, try a whole roasted fillet of salmon.

Not only does it create a stunning centerpiece, it accommodates those who don't eat meat. And this particular preparation is also gluten-free.

But beware: with a whole fillet (ours was a whopping 3 pounds), you must take care not to overcook it or that stellar presentation will fast be forgotten.

Start out roasting at a high temperature, then lower it and roast until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part.

When you remove it from the oven, be sure to let it rest before slicing. It will continue to cook, and the internal temperature will increase to 130 or more degrees.

And make sure you have a baking sheet or dish big enough to hold the long fillet. Don't hesitate to ask the fishmonger to cut the piece to a specific size for your needs.

When roasting salmon, I prefer to keep the skin on because it protects the delicate flesh. You can remove the skin just before serving.

A trick I learned recently from The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook (American's Test Kitchen, $45) is to "score the skin to keep it from buckling," which also protects it from burning.

Finally, I think it's best to treat this salmon simply: Avoid overpowering seasonings. This recipe is paired with a creamy risotto with leeks and baby kale.

Risotto can be a challenge, but here are some tips for success:

1. For the best risotto, don't rinse the rice before using, because you need the starchiness.

2. Always use warm broth.

3. Cook the risotto over medium heat. If the heat is too high, the broth will evaporate too quickly and the rice won't absorb enough. If it's too low, the risotto will be soggy.

Roasted Salmon Fillet With Leek and Baby Kale Risotto

Makes 8 servingsEndTextStartText

For the salmon:

1 tablespoon olive oil

21/2- to 3-pound salmon fillet with skin on

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 cup maple syrup mixed with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

For the risotto:

41/2 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

21/2 cups sliced leeks

11/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

5 cups, packed, baby kale


1. To prepare the salmon, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place olive oil on a baking sheet with sides and place it in the oven while it heats. Rinse the salmon and pat it dry. Score the skin on the salmon at 3-inch intervals. Sprinkle the flesh side of the salmon with salt, lemon-pepper seasoning, and parsley flakes.

2. Start bringing together the risotto ingredients.

3. Carefully remove the preheated baking sheet and place the salmon on the sheet and in the oven. Roast about 8 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Spoon some of the maple syrup on the salmon and spread it around. Place salmon back in the oven and continue baking until it reaches 125 degrees in the thickest part. Remove from the oven and spoon more maple syrup mixture on top. Tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

4. Meanwhile, while salmon roasts, prepare the risotto: Bring broth to just a simmer in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

5. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and saute 3 minutes or until tender. Reduce the heat to medium and add rice, cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, cook about 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed. Add 1 cup of the broth, cook 3 minutes, while stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1 cup at a time (reserve 1/2 cup broth, stir in before serving), stirring until the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 20 minutes.

6. Stir in half-and-half, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in the baby kale and remaining 1/2 cup broth and cook 2 minutes.

Per serving: 507 calories (34 percent from fat), 19 gram fat (5 grams sat. fat), 48 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 1,065 mg sodium, 93 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.