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Tasty, filling comfort food doesn’t have to be a gut-busting guilt trip. You won’t feel any guilt digging into this slow-roasted salmon with sun-dried tomato butter over Parmesan orzo from chef Jerry Cordero of The White Horse Country Pub & Restaurant in New Preston. With its large stores of protein, Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, salmon is about as healthy a food as you can find. But don’t think of it as a boring health food: the dish showcases a full harmony of flavors.

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“You always look for contrasting fat with acidity with sweetness and savory,” says Cordero, whose centerpiece ingredient is Faroe Islands salmon, a fatty fish from the cold waters of the North Atlantic renowned as one of the world’s best-tasting salmon varieties. “Slow roasting it to keep it moist and melt the fat, then topping it with the sun-dried tomato butter, provides a nice acidity and tartness against the fat and sweetness of the butter, adding a wonderful mouthfeel to the salmon,” he says. Cordero also notes how the oregano extends more warmth while the Parmesan orzo complements the fish with its texture and flavor.

Due to its high fat content, salmon is more forgiving for the home cook than white fish, for example, which can more easily dry out. “This is an excellent salmon dish from our chef that translates well to the home cook,” says White Horse owner John Harris. “Simple, not too fussy, and with a delicious result.”

Salmon with sun-dried tomato butter over Parmesan orzo

Servings: 4

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Preparation time: 30 minutes 

Cordero suggests making the tomato butter first and placing it in the refrigerator and then preparing the salmon and orzo.

Butter sauce

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (one 6½-ounce jar) sun-dried tomatoes in oil and herbs, drained and sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

In a food processor, combine butter, tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Roll the mix, like a log, in saran wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or longer to firm up.

Salmon

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets (chef prefers Faroe Islands salmon)

Chef’s tip: Jerry Cordero recommends Faroe Islands salmon for its higher fat content. It’s OK to use regular or Atlantic or Pacific farm-raised salmon, but these are easier to dry out due to their lower fat stores.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Sprinkle salmon fillets on both sides with salt, pepper and oregano; drizzle with olive oil. Place salmon in a baking dish and bake 30-40 minutes (salmon should be slightly opaque and the tip of a knife should slide through easily).

Parmesan orzo

  • 1 cup orzo
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • Pinch of salt and pepper 

Cook orzo 8-10 minutes; drain. Orzo should be slightly soft. In a skillet, sauté garlic in butter, add the orzo, Parmesan, milk, parsley, salt and pepper until heated through.

To serve

Spoon the orzo onto the plate. Place the salmon on the plate and smother the top of the salmon with a good slice of the sun-dried tomato butter.

Pamela Brown is a former English professor, a freelance writer, a marketing/PR specialist for the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, and author of Faithful Love, her first novel that inspired a love of writing. Pamela resides in Connecticut with her daughter, Alexis, who makes her life an adventure. 

This article appears in the September 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.