Baked salmon gets a sweet and crunchy topping with pecans and maple syrup. Served with cheesy creamy individual potato gratins and sautéed spinach, this is a meal you won’t soon forget.
Lately maple has been branded as a fall flavor. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks both released maple flavored drinks this past fall, and this article from Time Magazine has more on the trend. I do agree maple syrup is great in pumpkin or apple baked goods, with roasted root veggies, and in many other fall dishes. I even used it in my Pumpkin Seed Crusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Mash and Maple Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. But I thought this trend was kind of perplexing because maple syrup is actually a spring food.
The maple sugaring season in New England, when maple trees are tapped and the sap is collected to make maple syrup, generally runs from February to April. A couple years ago, Jonathan and I went to a Mass Audubon event where we got a tour of their small maple sugaring operation, where they use the same tools and methods used by Native Americans and colonial farmers. It was really for kids, but I thought it pretty cool.
Fortunately, maple syrup lasts a long time, so we can enjoy it all year. I like using maple syrup in baked goods, adding it to my oatmeal, and using it for sweet sauces. I have a few ideas for upcoming recipes using maple syrup, like today’s salmon.
This recipe is basically a baked salmon fillet, coated with pecans and maple syrup. It’s relatively simple, but the flavors are so good together. I decided to get a little fancier with my side dish, making individual potato gratins. They bake in less time than if you made one large gratin, and everything looks cuter in individual baking dishes. For the vegetable, I went with ultra-quick sautéed spinach.
Here are some of the main ingredients. Those are two salmon fillets, some shredded gruyere cheese (you can substitute shredded Swiss or even mozzarella if you’d like), two russet potatoes, a half a cup of chopped pecans, and some spinach.
The potatoes for the gratin need to be about 1/8 inch thick. If you cut them thicker, you’ll need a longer baking time. I used the thick slicing attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. The recipe calls for two potatoes because one might not be enough, and you don’t always get perfect slices in the food processor on the first try, but you will have leftover potatoes. You can try starting with just one and see if that makes enough.
I layered the potatoes into the baking dishes. (Later I decided to add some parchment paper to the sheet pan, which was a good idea because some of the cream and cheese bubbled over.)
I wanted to eat them right away when they came out of the oven. That little bit of crispy cheese on the sides is Jonathan’s favorite.
I put the salmon in the oven a little before the potatoes were done. It finished baking during the time the gratins need to rest. You can see some of the maple syrup dripped off the salmon. I spooned it out of the baking dish and drizzled it over the salmon just before serving.
While I recommend this combo, obviously feel free to make the salmon by itself or to pair the potato gratins with another main dish. They’re both delicious in their own right!
Maple Pecan Salmon with Individual Potato Gratins
- 2 russet potatoes *see notes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- salt and pepper
- 6 tablespoons shredded gruyere cheese
- 2 (6-8 ounce) salmon fillets, skin-on
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Use a food processor or other kitchen tool to cut potatoes to about 1/8 inch thick. I used the thick slicer attachment on my KitchenAid mixer. Layer potatoes into 2 (9 ounce) ramekins or other baking dishes.
- In a small saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add nutmeg, thyme, and salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Place ramekins over a sheet pan to catch any drippings. (Optional: line with foil or parchment paper for easier clean-up.) Carefully pour half of cream over each dish of potatoes. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons shredded gruyere cheese over the top of each dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. (While potatoes are baking, start making the salmon.) Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if not already done for the potatoes). Spray a baking dish with cooking oil spray, or line with parchment paper or foil (and then spray) for easier clean-up.
- Prepare salmon: Season salmon with salt and pepper. Spread flour out on a plate, and put the egg in a shallow bowl or rimmed plate. Spread out pecans on a third plate. Dip the top (skinless side) only of each fillet into flour. Then dip the top side into the egg, then into the pecans. Press gently to help pecans stick to the top of the salmon. Place salmon on prepared baking dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon maple syrup over each fillet.
- Cook salmon: When there are about 5 minutes left on the potatoes, transfer salmon to oven. (It will finish cooking during potatoes’ resting time.) Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness, until fish flakes easily or reaches internal temperature of 145 degrees.
- Make spinach: While the salmon is baking, make spinach. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted, stirring as spinach cooks down. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon any maple syrup left in the baking pan over the salmon before serving.
*1 potato may be enough for the gratins, but have 2 on hand in case you need more.