Fresh herbs, salty water key to poached salmon

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 9:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

This is a pretty lush way to poach salmon. I learned it years and years ago, I think from Fine Cooking magazine, though I can’t be sure. If I plan on eating salmon warm, I might not go the extra mile this recipe calls for, though it surely makes for an elegant warm dish. If I am planning to have it at room temperature or chilled, then I think this recipe provides the little extra oomph in the flavor department that cool fish really needs.

This method works with whole fish, steaks and filets. You probably know that fish cooked in the round (gutted but with head and tail on and bones in) is going to have more flavor than a filet. Whatever you choose, what really makes the fish taste good is the briny cooking liquid, all the fresh herbs and the white wine at the end.

The cooking liquid ought to be as salty as the sea. You will need enough to cover the fish, so keep adding salt until you can taste a very strong saltiness.

Because we have lots of herbs in our garden, I went out and picked a very generous handful of parsley, sorrel, lemon balm, savory, thyme, chives and dill, lots of dill. I used the green tops of my celeriac instead of celery. I also used scallions instead of onions because I have used up the last of last year’s onion harvest, and I don’t want to dip into the current crop just yet. A dry white wine is the best choice for finishing at the end.

It is good to cook the fish a day ahead and keep it in the poaching liquid overnight in the fridge. At least, cook it in the morning for serving in the evening.

You will need a sauce for it. I make a simple herbed mayonnaise with the emphasis on dill and spread it over the whole fish. If you have cucumbers, it is nice to slice them very thinly and lay them on top of the sauce, overlapping them scale-fashion. Chop the dill very finely and stir it into the mayonnaise. Keep adding dill until the mayo looks fairly green. You can serve lemon wedges on the side if you like.

Looking for …

Margaret Chase Smith Blueberry Cake. Barbara Barrett in Eastport wrote to say that she appreciates our focus here “on making the best of seasonal foods. In that vein, I have lost a wonderful Blueberry Cake recipe that came from a pamphlet distributed by the Maine Wild Blueberry Council. The recipe was attributed to Margaret Chase Smith, a personal hero. It was a single-layer cake, and the pamphlet suggested using a cream cheese frosting. I wonder whether you or your readers can locate the recipe.” Oh, I just bet one of you has that recipe. I look forward to trying it out and sharing it with Barbara.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. E-mail: tastebuds@prexar.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings, and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

Poached Salmon

Yield is variable.

Salmon in the round, filets, or steaks (approximately 6 ounces per person)

Water

Salt

Generous quantity fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, chives, savory, tarragon, thyme

1 medium onion

2 stalks celery

1½-2 cups white wine

Lay the fish in a pot or pan large enough to hold it, or use a poacher. If the fish is in the round, wrap it in a piece of cheesecloth so you can lift it out. Start with a quart of water to which you add enough salt to make it as salty as seawater, at least 3 to 4 tablespoons, stirring to dissolve it. Pour over fish and repeat until you have covered it. Chop onion and celery coarsely and add to the pan. Shred herbs lightly and tuck them all around the fish. Bring the pot to simmer over medium heat and cook until fish flakes apart, about 10 minutes for 1½-inch-thick filet, or, if in the round, it reaches an internal temperature of 155 F. Take off the heat and add white wine. Let cool. When you are ready to serve it, remove it from the liquid, lay it on a platter, remove the skin and spread the sauce on the fish, followed by the cucumbers if you use them.

Looking for …

Margaret Chase Smith Blueberry Cake. Barbara Barrett in Eastport wrote to say that she appreciates our focus here “on making the best of seasonal foods. In that vein, I have lost a wonderful Blueberry Cake recipe that came from a pamphlet distributed by the Maine Wild Blueberry Council. The recipe was attributed to Margaret Chase Smith, a personal hero. It was a single-layer cake, and the pamphlet suggested using a cream cheese frosting. I wonder whether you or your readers can locate the recipe.” Oh, I just bet one of you has that recipe. I look forward to trying it out and sharing it with Barbara.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. E-mail: tastebuds@prexar.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings, and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

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