Poor Man’s Kitchen: This Is How You Poach Your Salmon, Plebes
Poaching salmon is surprisingly easy to screw up. It’s easy to over- or under-poach the fish. Do you love an unpleasant, jelly-like consistency on your salmon? Then keep under-poaching your salmon. Do you love a rubbery consistency and that special mouthfeel of “dry”? Then keep over-poaching! Or read on and see how it is done.
First off, while it’s lovely to poach an entire salmon half, it’s not very practice unless you’re entertaining. Also, this requires a specialized salmon pan. I’m not a fan of single use items in the kitchen, especially really big, rarely used single use items that take up precious storage space. Finally, classic pan poaching is done in the oven. It’s more difficult to accurately gauge cooking time. Not to mention, here in Central Texas, the last thing I want to do during the fiery summer is fire up the oven.
Here’s a stove top quick, easy poaching technique that works beautifully for filets of salmon. As always, the better the quality of your ingredients, the better the results. Wild salmon can be very pricey – $50/lb or even more – but this recipe will work beautifully with farmed salmon, typicaly in the $6-8/lb range.
Dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
Fine herbs (or fresh dill)
Small bay leaf
Place your filet or filets in a saute pan with a tight fitting cover. If you’re using a dry white wine, add half wine and half water to just cover the fish. If you’re using vermouth, use 1/3 vermouth to 2/3 water. Add a dozen or so peppercorns, a few good pinches of your favorite fine herbs (or fresh dill), a teaspoon or two of salt and a small bay leaf.
Be generous with the seasonings. In the end their effect will be mild. Don’t scrimp on the salt. You need it to trigger the process of osmosis that will cause the salmon to take in the flavors.
Place the pan, tightly covered, on the stove on high heat until it comes to a rapid boil, 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Wait 20 minutes. Do not remove the cover at any time. After 20 minutes of steeping, use a slotted spoon to remove the salmon and refrigerate in well sealed plastic container or equivalent.
That’s it. You’re done. Once it chills you’ll have perfectly poached salmon on hand that will keep in the frig for at least four days.
Poached, chilled salmon can be served on its own, as part of a salmon salad, with crackers or bread, in a green salad or omelet, with cream cheese and bagels or pretty much any way you can imagine. Personally, I like to present the salmon on a bed of greens with thinly sliced cucumber and a few capers on top, lemon slices, a selection of crackers, cream cheese and optional add-ons of finely chopped onion, thinly sliced scallions, chopped hard boiled egg and spicy mayonnaise, but I encourage you to use your imagination. Once you’re mastered the basic technique, there’s no limits to presentation and combinations.