Poaching salmon

Yield: 1 info

Measure Ingredient
\N \N None

Salmon is a classic choice for poaching not only for its appealing color, but also because the large and even "grain: of its flesh gives it a superb texture. The rich oils contained within salmon help to keep the fish moist. Salmon is particularly suited to being serve slightly chilled; its assertive flavor compensates for the muting effects of colder temperature. However, you'll enjoy salmon's fullest flavor if you serve it just below room temperature.

Keep in mind that poaching means cooking not at a boil or even a simmer, but at a point just below a simmer, around 180øF. With a little experience, you'll be able to recognize this temperature level from the appearance of imminent movement of the court bouillon and the lazy evaporation of the liquid at the surface.

Perhaps the best way to prepare salmon that's to be eaten chilled is in a court bouillon (pronounce koor boo-YAHN). The term comes from the French; court means short and bouillon is derived form the verb "to boil". Court bouillon is "short" because it's made primarily of vegetables and herbs, which means it cooks mush more quickly than stock that are built from meat and poultry. Court bouillon is most often used as a poaching liquid for fish or shellfish, and sometimes for poultry or brains.

Traditional recipes call for a fairly standard combination of ingredients; water, onion, carrot, thyme, bay leaf, and vinegar or wine (red or white, depending on what is to be cooked) are constants.

A court bouillon destined for poaching fish should always contain a good amount of salt; without it, the fish will taste bland. Add about 2 tbs salt per quart of water. Add wine or vinegar only after the vegetables have cooked in the hot liquid for 12-15 minutes; the acidity of both of these ingredients inhibits the vegetables from cooking and releasing their flavor completely.

No matter how many aromatic ingredients you add, a court bouillon has only a soft influence on what's being cooked in it, so add plenty of herbs and vegetables.

~ Fennel goes particularly well with fish; use the tough outer stalks and feathery tops of a fennel bulb.

~ Celery tops are a good addition, as are the green parts of leeks or scallions.

~ Parsley or other soft herbs, such as basil or tarragon are sometimes added, but not chervil; its meek flavor would be lost. Don't add strong herbs, such as rosemary or sage; they can overpower the taste of the fish. The one exception is oregano, which is particularly good with striped sea bass.

~ Lemongrass has an exceptional aroma when infused in hot liquids and is very effective in penetrating fish, as are spearmint and lemon thyme.

~ Experiment with more exotic flavors, such as ginger or coriander.

The technique for poaching fish differs depending on whether it is whole or sliced. Slices or fish cook much more rapidly than whole fish. Because of the shorter exposure to the court bouillon, the broth for cooking sliced fish should be simmered before adding the fish so that the maximum amount of flavor has been released from the vegetables and herbs. To do this, cook the vegetables in a little oil or butter over medium heat until they're soft before moistening them with water. Then add the herbs - hardy ones at the start, more delicate ones just before you add the fish. After the court bouillon has developed a rich flavor, drop the sliced fish into the hot broth.

If the sliced fish is put into cool broth and heated gradually, much of its flavor would escape into the surrounding liquid. Adding the fish to hot court bouillon helps to concentrate inside the slice all the flavor contained within it. Traditionally, recipes for poaching whole fish call for preparing the court bouillon ahead of time and allowing it to cool before immersing the fish. Another way to do it is salt the cool water, add the raw aromatics and the fish, and slowly bring it all up to poaching temperature. Since whole fish is less permeable than sliced, loss of flavor is not a concern. More important, after cooking, whole fish is returned to the cooled court bouillon and allowed to stand overnight.

During this period, the fish has a chance to rest in its own released juices, as well as to absorb more thoroughly the aromas of the court bouillon. Classic French cookbooks warn that immersion in boiling court bouillon may cause a rapid shrinking and bursting of the flesh.

You won't have this problem with salmon; however, keep it in mind when poaching more delicate types of fish.

A whole fish is cooked when it reaches 130øF at its thickest point.

The best way to test the fish is to use an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the fish right away to avoid overcooking. Now add the wine to the broth. This keeps the wine much fresher tasting and reduces the temperature of the court bouillon, bringing it closer to the point when the fish may be replaced and stored.

Fine Cooking

August-September 1995

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-07-95

Similar recipes