How to create perfect poached salmon...
Nothing really compares to the luscious quality of a perfectly poached salmon. It wants to be rich and yet delicate...to be firm and smooth textured and almost melt in your mouth...to have layers of flavor and a memorable finish. We have found so many fabulous young cooks here and we are thinking it’s a good place to reveal some of the secrets that we have learned over the years and from the famous Star Chefs who come to our Old Adobe for Cooking Classes.
It’s always a sad reality that new brides burn everything when they start to do the cooking? Well, really, it may be more the fault of the new pots and pans than the bride! The Wedding gifts would be even more valuable if purchased from a tag sale. For example, a well used and tempered skillet or crepe pan is like gold and will be even better and healthier than a non-stick. Really :D So many little methods that every great cook picks up over time. So...on to the secrets of perfect poached salmon.
It is always true that the quality of the ingredients is first on the list of ways to make winning dishes. Look for the freshest and the most highly regarded for each ingredient. It may be better to use fewer ingredients than to buy lesser quality if you are on a budget. For example, buy the best butter and olive oil you can find...and notice it’s not always the most expensive. Finding these superlatives in basic elements like flour and sugar and salt and pepper can make all the difference when it comes to turning out a winning dish.
So, for our perfect poached salmon we are using all the best.
For the Stock:
In truth, a great salmon is actually started the day before it is served. A spectacular stock, almost a demi glace, is number two on the list of “must have”. To make this, go to the market and ask for veal bones, chicken and duck wings and ask that they be cracked or just chopped into large pieces. (just eyeball this and get enough to almost fill your largest pot). Put the oven on 350 and place all the bones plus a slice of apple cured bacon or pancetta on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for several hours or until they are roasted to a rich, dark brown. Now get out your largest soup pot and put all the bones inside, pour off most of the fat and deglaze the pan with 1 cup good dry white wine. Get all the little bits scraped into the pot and add one large yellow onion with the skin on. 2 cloves of garlic with the skin on. 1 clove. 1 bay leaf, Small bundle of fresh thyme. 2 carrots. 1 celery stalk with leaves. Small bundle of parsley. 1 small red pepper or just pinch of cayenne. About 2” of orange peel (no pith and organic). And one lavender head (no leaves). Finally fill with
water to cover by at least 1inch. This must simmer on low for many hours to be great.
Skim off the foam during the first hour and then just let it go.
This precious potion is actually the palette upon which a fine chef prepares the art piece. When is it done? Well really it is done when it supports the dish you are making. Some dishes need light stock and others want a deep rich demi glace and so the cooking can be several hours or even 8 hours to reduce to a composition with the consistency of honey. This final stage is done by removing the bones and straining the stock after 6 hours and then reducing it down to the desired thickness.
For the Fish:
So, for our perfect poached salmon, we need the stock to be just slightly thick, so we finish it in around 6 hours. This is strained and cooled and then refrigerated over night so that it can be skimmed for fat removal and ready to make the salmon the next day.
Salmon fillet ~ sweet butter ~ chopped shallots ~ finely chopped carrots, celery & parsley
fresh dill ~ stock ~ Grande Maniere or fine brandy ~ salt & pepper
In a very large skillet with a lid, put sweet butter and shallots to sauté. Add carrots & celery, parsley, and cook on medium low for 5 minutes (do not brown). Now move all veggies to side, add 1 T. more butter and then put the salmon in the pan with the skin side down. Raise the heat to medium and then add the stock to almost cover the fish. Add a splash of Grand Maniere, salt & pepper and top with sprigs of fresh dill. Next bring almost to a boil and maintain this for about 8 minutes. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 1 hour. To test for doness press on the thickest part of the fillet and see that it feels firm. Do not over cook. If it needs a bit more cooking, just simmer for a few minutes more and check again to see that the center feels firm when pressed.
Remove the fish with slotted spoons to a serving platter. Top with the veggies and some dill. Cover with foil and set aside in a warm place. Now take the remaining juices and stock in the pan and reduce it by approx. 1/4, and add 1 tsp. corn starch to a 1/4 C good dry white wine. Stir well and add to the simmering pan. Cook for at least 6 minutes more and then set aside, stirring occasionally, until checking for final S&P and it is ready to serve. Bring up to temperature just before ladling onto the fish and reserve some for a sauce boat on the side.
We decorated ours with some gorgeous fresh nasturtiums and greens.