I kind of hate the “healthy” renaissance that salmon has undergone recently. I’ve always liked fish and I like salmon just fine, but someone deduces that salmon is healthy and all of a sudden everyone’s all crazy about salmon, as if some of us hadn’t been eating it all along. I liked salmon before it was cool. (End hipster foodie rant.)
Kidding aside, I’ve always found salmon a pretty forgiving fish to cook. I usually roast it with salt and pepper and thyme, which is easy and delicious and I make enough to have cold leftovers for salad with avocado and lemon vinaigrette. I’ve never tried poaching anything, save for a few failed eggs, but you know what? Poaching salmon is just as easy and just as delicious! Hooray for a having a new salmon-making method in my arsenal.
The concept here is #37: Speed Evaporation when Cooking Wine. White wine is the poaching liquid here and the concept explores the necessity of cooking off the alcohol in a finished dish. The belief that the alcohol disappears completely is a myth, but the alcohol content is significantly reduced, altering the flavor the alcohol brings. Mixing the wine with another liquid further helps the alcohol to reduce, as the mixture behaves as a single compound that evaporates at a lower temperature than water, with the vapor consisting of about 95% alcohol.
I didn’t love this recipe completely. The salmon was great and I’d absolutely make it again, but vinaigrette had a bizarre taste to me. I think it was the honey – it added an unpleasant sweetness that didn’t play well with the capers and herbs. I’ll include the honey in the recipe here, but if I were to try it again, I’d leave it out and see if that’s where things went wrong. Also, I halved this recipe to make only two portions – one for dinner and one for cold leftovers the next day.
First, cut half of a lemon into four to five ¼-inch thick slices and arrange them in a single layer across a skillet. Cut the remaining half into wedges for serving. Mince 1 tablespoon fresh parsley and 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon and set them aside. Add the herb stems to the skillet with the lemons, along with 1 tablespoon minced shallot, ½ cup dry white wine, and ½ cup water. (I used 90+ pinot grigio, which is crisp and citrusy and under $10 at my grocery store.)
Remove the skin from ¾-1 pound of salmon and trim it of any of the whitish fat from the belly, cutting it into two equal pieces. Place the salmon, skinned side down, on top of the lemon slices, turn the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook the salmon until your desired degree of doneness, 11-16. If you like it well-done, like me, it should only be slightly translucent when you peek between the flakes – carryover heat will take it the rest of the way. Remove the salmon and lemon slices to a plate and tent it loosely with foil.
Return the pan to high heat to reduce the cooking liquid to about a tablespoon, four to five minutes. While that’s cooking, mix the parsley, tarragon, some more minced shallot (you’ll use about a half of a large shallot for the entire recipe), 1 tablespoon rinsed and chopped capers, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and ½ tablespoon honey (if you’re so inclined). Strain the reduced cooking liquid in the herb mixture, pressing on the solids to release as much liquid as possible. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine.
Sprinkle the cooked pieces of salmon with salt and pepper, spoon the vinaigrette over the top, and serve with a lemon wedge. I can’t argue with a tasty and easy piece of salmon…I’ll just ease up on the sweetness the next time.