Sear-Roasted Salmon with Honey-Glazed Fennel

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

By Cat, May 2011 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t usually roast salmon in my oven; my preferred method is pan-grilling/roasting. I loved the ingredients in this recipe – especially the fennel – when it arrived in a Fine Cooking newsletter, so I adapted it to my ingredient preferences (as oven-roast) for future adaptation to pan-roast technique.

The best fish to use for this recipe is king salmon, as the meat is thicker. If you use a smaller fish, you will need to shorten the cooking time considerably.

Sear-Roasted Salmon with Honey-Glazed Fennel

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Tom Douglas; the original serves 4 but I’ve modified it to serve 2. There’s a lot of detail to this recipe but it really is fairly simple.

The salmon is seared on stove top, then roasted in the oven with the fennel. Alternately, you could roast the salmon and fennel on stove top after searing the salmon. Look for King salmon for this dish, as the smaller, thinner fish such as sockeye will cook through rather than leaving the center slightly rare.

The recipe calls for skinless salmon. If all you can find is skin-on salmon, it is hard to remove the skin raw; instead, sear skin-side down, then easily remove the cooked skin after searing.

Hard to find ingredients and reasonable substitutes:

  • Fennel pollen (1) is not very common in stores here but is readily available in the Tuscany region of Italy. A reasonable substitute is freshly ground fennel seeds.
  • Sumac (1) may be more of a challenge unless you have a Middle Eastern market in your area. Sumac is a burgundy-colored berry of a plant related to, but not the same as, poison sumac. Do not substitute with berries from poison sumac. This spice provides a tart or astringent flavor, similar to lemon, so a fair substitute would be grated lemon zest. Sweet paprika can also be used (more for the color than flavor).

I’ve not tested this yet.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Spice rub
  • ½ Tbsp coriander seeds (whole)
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika (or ground sumac)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (zest of one lemon)
  • 1 tspUnrefined sea salt
  • Fish & Fennel
  • 2 skinless* wild king salmon fillets (6 oz ea)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (NOTE: you will need about 3 tsp lemon juice overall -from 1- 2 lemons)
  • 1½ Tbsp raw, local honey
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small fennel bulb (about ¾ cup after prepping)
  • Apple salad & garnish
  • ¼ cup fennel fronds
  • ½ Granny Smith or other tart apple
  • ¼ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ – ½ tsp fennel pollen or freshly ground fennel seeds
  • Equipment
  • heavy oven-proof cast iron skillet
  • small bowl & small plate
  • serving platter

‘* NOTE: you can also use skin-on fish: sear it skin-side down, then turn over and remove the cooked skin before roasting


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Prepare spice rub: Heat coriander seeds over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly golden and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat to cool a bit, then grind and transfer to a small bowl. Stir in sumac or paprika, lemon zest and salt with your fingers.
  3. Prep apple and fennel: Cut off the fennel fronds; set aside about 1/4 cup for salad, and save remainder for another use.
  4. Halve the whole fennel bulb and save half for another use. Core the remaining half, then slice lengthwise about ¼” thick (or crosswise into half-moons), about ¾ cup worth.
  5. Halve the whole apple and reserve half for another use. Cut the remaining half into half, and cut out the core. Slice each quarter into matchsticks and save in another small bowl of water with a few drops of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown (these will be used in a salad, later).
  6. Prepare salmon: Generously coat the fillets on all sides with the rub and place on a plate. Mix together 2 tsp lemon juice and honey.
  7. Heat 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets then arrange the fennel around the fish, and sear about 2 minutes without moving.
  8. Using a slotted metal spatula, lift a piece of fish and check the color – when nicely browned, flip them and transfer pan to oven.
  9. Roast until salmon is barely cooked in center, about 4 minutes.
  10. Prepare apple salad (while fish is roasting): Toss fennel fronds with ½ tsp olive oil. Add apple matchsticks and ¼ tsp lemon juice; season with salt and pepper and toss again.
  11. When salmon is cooked, remove pan from oven and transfer fillets to serving plate using spatula.
  12. Taste fennel in pan; if still crunchy, set pan over medium heat and cook a few minutes until tender, stirring occasionally. Then transfer to a small plate.
  13. Discard any oil remaining in pan, blotting with paper towels. Set over medium-high heat and add lemon-honey mix; bring to a boil, stirring with whisk to release browned bits. Add cooked fennel and stir to coat with the  glaze. Remove from heat, season to taste. Top each fillet with half the glazed fennel and then a little mound of apple salad.
  14. Sprinkle each portion with pinch of fennel pollen or freshly ground fennel seeds and serve immediately.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions


  1. Fine Cooking recipe,

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