After a dozen experiments with toppings for a fish fillet to bake in the oven, I am finally ready to announce the winner. It is butter-lemon-garlic topping. Very simple. Made with butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That’s it.
But there is a secret. I use clarified butter instead of the good old regular (unsalted) butter. Why? Because clarified butter has that deep, nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with the taste of a tender fish fillet. Steelhead is my favorite fish to use with this topping. But salmon works just as fine.
Here we go, step by step.
This is steelhead fillet. With the skin on.
Steelhead skin side down. It looks just like salmon, doesn’t it?
We place our fillet on a piece of aluminum foil before baking.
And here’s our luscious topping. Clarified butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
We slather our fillet with the topping. And sprinkle some fresh or dried dill weed on top (dried pictured).
Baked! Beautiful! Look at those juices seeping from the sides of the fish. You can’t beat the clean and bright color of the clarified butter.
Baked Lemon-Garlic Steelhead Fillet
1 medium fillet of steelhead trout, with skin on (can substitute salmon fillet)
2 tablespoons of clarified butter (can substitute regular unsalted butter, slightly melted and cooled)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Zest of 1/2 medium-size lemon
Juice of 1/2 medium-size lemon
Ground black pepper
Pinch of finely chopped fresh dill or dried dill weed (dried dill is less overpowering)
Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC).
Line a large rimless baking sheet with aluminum foil. The baking sheet should be large enough to fit the fillet. If the fillet doesn’t fit, cut it in half crosswise.
Place the fish skin side down on the foil.
In a small bowl combine the clarified butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. (You will notice how creamy the topping is in the photos. It is because I use clarified butter stored in a cool pantry, not in the refrigerator. Stored in the pantry, it remains soft, so no need to melt it, while in the refrigerator it hardens, so melt it slightly. Same with regular unsalted butter—melt it slightly).
Spoon the mixture over the fillet and spread to coat the fish. Sprinkle with the dill.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the flesh is cooked through and flakes easily.
Use a large spatula to lift the fillet off the foil, peeling the skin off the fish and leaving the skin on the pan. Transfer the fillet to a serving platter. Serve immediately with any side dish of your choice.