Check out the Notes at the end for details on asparagus, simple salmon prep, and what to do in Step 4 if your sheet pan is already past its prime.
2 bunches of medium-sized asparagus, woody ends removed (see notes)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small garlic clove (or half of a larger one), minced
1 salmon filet, about 1.5-2 pounds, pin bones removed (see notes)
1 lemon, plus a few more wedges
2 Tablespoons minced parsley
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (if using an unlined sheet pan)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F with the rack in the top position. Lay the asparagus spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle about half the oil over the asparagus, then sprinkle with several generous pinches of salt (see notes). Use your hands to toss everything together so it's evenly coated, then slide the pan into the oven on the top rack and bake for 2-5 minutes (depending on the size of your asparagus, see notes).
2. While the asparagus is cooking, whisk the garlic into the remaining oil. When the asparagus is partially cooked and still a vivid green, remove it from the oven (watch your asparagus, not the clock), and move the asparagus to either side of the pan. Pat the salmon skin dry and lay it, skin-side down, in the middle of the pan. Brush the top of the salmon with the garlic-oil mixture and sprinkle with several generous pinches of salt (see notes), followed by a few grinds of black pepper.
3. Move the oven rack to the middle position and slide the pan back in and roast for 6-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon fillet. Figure 4-6 minutes for each half-inch thickness of salmon, so 8-12 minutes for a fillet that is 1-inch thick at it's largest end, or more if your fillet is thicker. Watch the salmon - it's finished cooking when the flesh has just become opaque all the way to the skin. The best indication is that droplets of fat will form on the surface of the fillet. If you're unsure, you can use a knife to peek down into the thickest part of the fillet to confirm it's done. If your fillet has a thinner tail end, you can prevent it from drying out while the rest of the fish finishes cooking by loosely tenting the thin end with foil for the second half of cooking.
4. While the salmon is roasting, slice the lemon into 4 rounds. When the salmon is done, transfer the salmon and asparagus to a serving platter while the pan is still hot. If you roasted the salmon in an unlined pan, rub the hot pan all over with the lemon rounds, then toss the butter and half the parsley into the pan. Use a spatula to mix everything together, then pour the mixture over the salmon fillet. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the salmon and serve with the additional wedges. (See notes for alternative if you lined the pan with foil.)
Someone has to say this: the internet is FILLED with beautiful pictures of sheet-pan dinners, but who is cleaning all those sheet pans?
When cooking on the stovetop, it's common to use an acid (eg wine) to deglaze the pan after browning, which loosens the flavorful browned bits from the pan, incorporates them into a sauce, and gives an assist to whoever is doing dishes later.
The thing with most sheet pan dinners is: a) No sauce! And b) That pan is impossible to clean!
So - if you have a lovely, clean rimmed baking sheet and would like to keep it that way, follow the instructions in Step 4 to use a lemon to deglaze the pan and make a very simple sauce for your salmon.
If, on the other hand, that ship has sailed for you (eg, your sheet pan is no longer lovely and clean), then skip the deglazing and just squeeze a little lemon over the salmon before serving.
I like my asparagus slightly browned and roasty-toasty, which is why I've called for medium spears and for putting the asparagus into the oven before adding the salmon to the pan. If you have thin little spears, you can still make this! Just skip the pre-roasting and roast the asparagus alongside the salmon. And if you're using very large spears, you may need to pre-roast for a minute or two longer than called for.
If you notice spiky pin bones emerging from the surface of your salmon, you'll want to remove them. Use a pair of tweezers to grab onto them and yank them out. Don't let the reference to tweezers scare you - this isn't complicated. It just takes a couple minutes, and you'll be glad you did.
This recipe was originally created for our Series of Unfortunate Recipes, inspired by the foods in the Lemony Snicket books and Netflix series. (Don't worry - this dish is delicious. It's the story that's unfortunate.)