April 8, 2008

Poached salmon with herb and caper vinaigrette

I've never been much for cooking fish, except I do make a mean paella. I love shellfish, though, and salmon for me has always been just ok, but I never LOVE it. Until I tried poaching it.

I bought some salmon just because it looked good in the case but with no plans in mind. Then, serendipitously, my new issue of Cook's Illustrated arrived with a recipe for "Flavorful Poached Salmon." I'll spare you all the science and exacting details of the author's research but suffice it to say, they were right again. The salmon was perfectly cooked and full of flavor, not dry or flaky as it sometimes is when grilled or sautéed.

The technique, called a "shallow poach," essentially recreates a fish poacher in your sautée pan. Maybe you own a fish poacher, but I don't do it enough to warrant owning one. Laying the fish on top of lemon slices and parsley stems keeps the bottoms of the fish from overcooking while small amounts of liquid (water and white wine) allow the salmon to cook at a lower temperature, preserving the flavor. Marvelous idea. I highly recommend it.

Poached salmon with herb and caper vinaigrette (excerpted from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2008)

2 lemons (one sliced into 1/4 in slices, the other reserved for serving)
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
2 T chopped fresh tarragon leaves (I used what I had which was thyme)
2 small shallots (about 4 T) minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
2 skinless salmon fillets
2 T capers
1 T honey
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place lemon slices in pan, then parsely stems and 2 T shallots over them and lay the fish skin side down on top of that. Add wine and water.

Set pan over high heat and bring liquid to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook until it looks done (opaque, about 12 minutes). You could insert a thermometer and if it reads 125, it's done.

Cover fish on a plate with tented foil and return pan to heat. Reduce liquid to about half, 4 to 5 minutes. Combine remaining 2 T shallots, chopped herbs, capers, honey and olive oil in bowl. Strain cooking liquid into bowl and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I served the salmon over brown basmati rice and poured the sauce over it with meyer lemon wedges on the side. We drank (and I cooked with) my new Spring favorite-goes-with-anything white wine, a Wachau Grüner Veltliner ($12 at Woodland Wine).

Give this a try. It'll turn you into a poacher, in a good way.


  1. salmon has never been a favorite of mine but this really does sound quite wonderful.

    your blog is getting better alla the time...

    excellent post!

  2. Wonderful dish! My husband does not like salmon, but he enjoyed this dish! I made of modifications...
    Used 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice + 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup wine for the poaching liquid.
    Added fresh garlic, capers, and green onions to the poaching liquid instead of fresh herbs.
    For the sauce, I used some poaching liquid, roasted garlic mustard and shallots.
    I served it with roasted grains and steamed asparagus. Yummm!