Baked Salmon with Caramelized Lemons and Onions

Baked Salmon with Caramelized Lemons and Onions

I know that Halloween doesn't mean treating yourself to a spa day, but I'm going to interpret "treat" my way. Like I said in my confession, I never celebrated Halloween as a kid. I don't know if this is the reason I'm not a huge sweets person, but I do know I consider fresh caught salmon from a friend a freakin' delicious treat! This particular fish was caught here in the Northwest at the mouth of the North River that flows into Willapa Bay, from the same buddy that dug up these clams for me.  

Salmon is not a delicate fish, but it's nice not to slather it with a bunch of ingredients that cover the taste. The lemon and onion, caramelized from the brown sugar and olive oil love being with the thyme, rosemary, capers, butter and salt & pepper fish. Top it off with capers and we're in heaven!

Since this is fresh caught, it'll need a little more prepping than what you usually get in the store. Some north westerners would slap me for saying this: I don't eat the skin. That's why I'm not descaling this guy. I leave the skin on though to cook with because it'll peel right off after it's done in the oven. 

You want to run your fingers on the flesh and you'll find a row of bones. Those need to be taken out. 

Yes those are regular ol' pliers, but I promise I super duper sanitized it in boiling water and soap. Now, all you have to do is get a firm grip on the bone, and it'll slide right out. 

After you're done, pat these dry with a paper towel to get ready for baking. 

Herbs and seasonings make me happy. I mean, look how gorgeous these look! Stocking you kitchen with these things are the difference of a quick meal being good to fantastic.

Lemon time! Did you know you can eat the rind? The bitterness from the white pith mellows out when you cook it, and it's wonderful for a bold-flavor-lover like me. Meaning caramelized lemons are not for everyone, but neither is kimchi, and you know where I stand on that. Start by cutting a lemon in half, then half again. 

Now you're going to cut the tip of the flesh edge off. This is going to make it juicer and easier to get the seeds out. Cut them in half again and your lemons are ready. I cut them into these shapes because there isn't as much rind per bite. 

Onions! Cut them in half, then quarter it. You want chunky pieces so they don't fall apart and burn up in the oven. 

Coat these in olive oil and gently toss. You could do this in on the baking sheet, but you'll cover every inch if you do it in a bowl first. 

Season with salt.

Evenly spread these on the baking sheet and sprinkle the lemon pieces with brown sugar. This will help them caramelize and soften the bitterness and the same time. I put these and the fish in two separate pans because I don't want every piece of lemon and onion to brown. You can totally put them in one pan if you'd like.  

Prep the fish by putting a smidge of oil on the bottom of the pan and laying the fillets on top. Season with salt and pepper. Surround the fish with herbs and a couple sprigs of thyme on top. Finish with a pat of butter. Pop these into a 450 degree oven with the lemon and onions, on the same rack if you can. 

About 20 minutes later and voila! These are thicker cuts so you might want to cook your fish in less time. A good indicator on when to take it out is when you start to see white foam start to form on the top. If you see a lot of it, it's getting overcooked. 

Leave the lemons and onions in for a couple more minutes until they are browned how you like 'em. 

Ok. You might be thinking "Whoa Sara! You totally burned that ish! I can't keep reading this blog." 

WAIT! Please keep reading cause I kinda like ya, and would be super sad if you didn't. I did this on purpose. For real. The brown sugar with the juice of the lemon spreads around and burns the bottom, but the lemons and onions are delish! Just scrape them to the side and it's all flavor city baby!

Push aside the herbs (and any unwanted white fat, which is fine to consume by the way) and gently pull apart the fillet from the skin. The oil on the bottom helps for ease in taking off the skin from the pan for quick cleaning. 

Serve the baked salmon on a platter, topped with capers, surrounded with the wonderful caramelized lemons and onions. To make this for a dinner, add some herbed rice and refreshing pinot gris. [Shout out to Kay for the lovely serving utensils!]

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. If I got this instead of candy bars for Halloween, I might be a little more interested in the matter :) 


Baked Salmon with Caramelized Lemons and OnionsAbout 3-4 servings

2 Large salmon fillets, about 3 pounds
2 Lemons
2 Yellow onions
4 Sprigs thyme and/or rosemary
2 Tablespoons capers
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2  teaspoons salt
Pinch of pepper


  1. Clean fish and remove and bones. Pat fish dry with a paper towel.
  2. Slice lemons into 1/4" pieces, cutting the tip of the edge off lengthwise. Cut the onions into quarter pieces. 
  3. Coat the lemon and onion pieces in olive oil and season with about half the salt. Put on a foil lined sheet pan.
  4. Season the salmon with the other half of salt and pepper to taste and surround with thyme and rosemary. Put 1 Tablespoon of butter on top of each fish. 
  5. Put the salmon, lemon and onions in a 450 degree oven, and cook at the same time.
  6. After 15-18 minutes, take out the Salmon but continue to cook the lemon and onion pieces for an additional 3 minutes. 
  7. Plate the Salmon with the lemon and onion pieces, and top with capers. Serve with herbed rice and a Pinot Gris.