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Perfect Match Recipe: Roast Salmon with Fennel and Charred Onion Sauce

This game-changing onion beurre blanc will shake up your next salmon dinner, paired with a warm-climate Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a classic pairing with salmon. The chef's pick, from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, delivers pineapple, smoke and butter notes that stand up to the expressive flavors on the plate.
Photo by: Andrew Purcell
Chardonnay is a classic pairing with salmon. The chef's pick, from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, delivers pineapple, smoke and butter notes that stand up to the expressive flavors on the plate.

Hilary Sims
Posted: June 7, 2018

Roast salmon is a weeknight dinner staple for many of us, and almost countless combinations of richness and acidity can be applied to it to great effect.

Chef Jorge González of Pasquinel Bistrot in Puebla, Mexico, has created his own perfect salmon sauce: rich, supple beurre blanc fortified with charred onions. A side of licoricelike roasted fennel and a squeeze of lemon bring extra zip to the plate.

Beurre blanc is a classic French sauce combining butter and white wine. Though it’s not as fancy as it sounds, pulling it off does require a little technique. With its low smoke point, butter is somewhat delicate to work with; if heated too vigorously, the butterfat will separate from the emulsion, resulting in a “broken,” or nonhomogeneous, texture. Therefore, González underscores the importance of making the sauce almost in its entirety before adding the butter—kept cold until then—as the last step in the process, adding it little by little while whisking constantly to prevent boiling.

“You just add the butter at the very end, and that way you’re not going to break the sauce,” he says. “It’s going to be emulsified, it’s going to be creamy, it’s going to be airy, it’s going to be perfect.” Since the butter is central to the flavor and texture of the sauce, “the better the butter, the better the taste in that sauce,” he says with a laugh. Look for versions from grass-fed, pasture-raised or organically raised cows, or butter made by smaller farms.

With its smoky onion and garlic bits and velvety texture, this sauce is a keeper, for weeknight salmon and beyond.

Pairing Tip: Why Baja California Chardonnay Works with This Dish

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a version of this Perfect Match video with closed captions.

For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Jorge González’s inspiration, read the companion article, "A Perfect Match: Salmon With Mexican Chardonnay," in the July 31, 2018, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated Chardonnays in our Wine Ratings Search.

Roast Salmon with Fennel and Charred Onion Sauce

Recipe courtesy of chef Jorge González

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 4 red onions, medium-diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil, plus more
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 lemon, plus more for serving, if desired
  • Four 8-ounce salmon fillets

1. Preheat the broiler. Remove the fronds from the fennel and reserve. Slice the fennel bulbs into wedges.

2. Place the onion and garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with 1/2 cup olive oil and a bit of salt. Broil until well-charred, about 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 400° F.

3. Place the fennel wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until starting to soften and brown, about 20 minutes.

4. While the fennel cooks, pour the wine into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Add the charred onion and garlic to the pan and stir to combine. Over low heat, whisk in the butter bit by bit, taking care not to let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

5. Remove pan from oven and move fennel to one side. (If fennel is done to your liking, remove it from the oven and transfer to a warm spot.) Add the salmon fillets skin-side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast salmon to desired doneness, about 12 minutes for medium-rare or an internal temperature of 120° F. While the salmon cooks, roughly chop the reserved fennel fronds.

6. Spread a quarter of the charred onion sauce on each of four dinner plates. Top with the roasted salmon, skin-side up, and garnish with the fennel fronds. Add a quarter of the roasted fennel wedge to each plate. Serve lemon wedges on the side, if desired. Serves 4.

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