Poached Salmon

So one of the local stores made frozen farm-salmon filets a loss leader. Which meant it was in our price range and so we got some. Actually we got quite a bit as they were cheaper per pound than hamburger.

Which means I’ve gotten to play with a couple of ways of fixing salmon. This turned out pretty good, but I thought I’d mention the pitfalls.

Pitfall one: it is extremely easy to overcook your salmon, especially when poaching it. If you’re used to most methods it comes out HOT. Unfortunately 150F (~65C), while hot to the touch, isn’t THAT hot. Worse, it “cools” swifter. That in turn means if there’s any significant delay between plating and serving, the fish tastes lukewarm.

Pitfall two: judging seasonings is harder. This is especially harder when you’re playing delay cooking (see below). Your liquid needs some flavor, however. If it’s just water (or even lemon-water) more flavor leaves than enters during osmosis. And lets face it, farm salmon is rarely as flavorful as wild salmon, so losing flavor is especially bad. On the other hand, too much seasoning and you get salmon textured (insert flavors here).

The pitfalls noted, poaching brings some nice benefits, especially if you use delay cooking. No, that’s not really its name but its what I’ll call it. Basically bring your liquid to the finish temperature for the salmon and let your fish soak for as long as you need. It’s much easier if you use a controlled temperature device like an electric skillet. (Yes, I borrowed that from Alton Brown. It works, I’m keeping it.) Keep downside 2 in mind – the longer the soak the more transfer of the liquid’s flavor.

Now if I were somewhat wealthy, my soak liquid would be a salmon broth. Cook the heck out of a salmon head and salmon bones and salmon skin to get a very salmon-flavor liquid, add a bit of salt to help with the osmosis, maybe a lemon (sliced). I’ve done that in the past, and it makes a VERY salmon salmon.

Alternatively (and tested) is using milk. Only milk. Not at scalding temperature, but at the holding temperature. But in my electric skillet that’s four cups which I can’t then drink or otherwise use.

So what I had today was 4 cups of water, a teaspoon of salt, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, two whole cloves, four whole peppercorns, the last of some dried dill that was on the edge of dying (new I’d have used a half teaspoon or so for the same effect), and a bay leaf. Brought to a boil, brought down to temperature.

One really neat thing about using your electric skillet is that when you add your fish the temperature of the water drops if you’ll stir the water first. What THAT means is that you know when the fish is done because the light for the thermostat turns off. Now since I’m using a holding temperature this isn’t critical, but it’s extremely useful for everything else, like the quickly shredded lettuce, sliced red onion, thawed green (frozen) peas, and shredded carrot salad. (Tossed with just enough olive oil to lightly dampen everything, then with Black ground pepper and grated parmesan for the seasoning.)

So that plus a baked potato (with margarine and a little sour cream) made tonight’s meal. I may be poor but I can cook and I will do my best with what I’ve got. Oddly (grin) I think I’d have people join my table if they could.


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