Basic Poached Salmon
This is one of the simplest ways to cook an oily fish like salmon, especially if you want to eat something light during the holidays, or something cold during the heat of summer. It also doesn’t smell, as it cooks sealed in its own steam. The basic “white” stock I give you here to poach the salmon can also be used to poach or steam chicken. Any stock you don’t use can be frozen for a later date. This recipe calls for a whole salmon fillet, but you can poach smaller pieces using the same method. Allow 4 to 6-ounces of fish per person.
- 1 fillet of salmon (about 2 ½ pounds), skin on, bones removed, rinsed and patted dry
- 4-6 cups water (or half white wine and half water)
- 1 small onion, peeled and halved
- 4 whole cloves
- 1-inch slice of lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large carrot, thickly sliced
- 1 stick celery or 2 fennel branches, stripped of their leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
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1. Stick the onion halves with the cloves, 2 per half. In a wide sauté pan or fish kettle, add the lemon peel, peppercorns, bay leaf, sea salt and all the vegetables, plus enough water to just cover it all. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the vegetables begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
2. When the vegetables are cooked, bring the stock back to a gentle boil. Place the salmon skin-side down on top of the vegetables and cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil so that no steam can escape. Turn off the heat.
3. Move the pan to the back of the stove and leave the salmon to steam for 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness, or until it has completely cooled. If you are poaching a whole fillet, check after 15 minutes. Don’t open the lid before then -- you will let out all the steam and stop the cooking.
4. When the salmon is ready, gently lift it off the vegetables skin-side down with a plate or cutting board large enough to hold it in one piece. Take care not to break it. Cover with a 2nd disposable board or a plate big enough to cover it. Carefully flip it over. Remove the skin. Cover with the plate again. Carefully flip it back to right side up. Slide it onto a serving plate, trim, decorate and serve.
When you flip the salmon in step 4, especially if it's a whole slamon fillet, I find flexible plastic cutting boards by far the easiest thing to use.
If your pocketbook allows, always buy wild caught salmon. A correctly sized portion is around 3 to 4-ounces, about the size of a pack of cards, so go for quality rather than quantity.