Readers of this blog know that I all about The Ina when it comes to kitchen inspiration. I can’t live by The Ina alone, however. Just imagine how much butter that would take! Lately, I’ve had to look outside East Hampton and its zany cast of characters for less zaftig inspirations. While French Friday’s with Dorie keeps me alternately inspired and nudges my comfort zone a bit, I still long for more “regular food” inspiration now and then.
What I mean is the basic cooking technique and skills stuff, regular comfort foods , and such. I guess I feel the need to “up my game” with the”regular dishes” I have have either already made once and forgot or just never even tried because they seemed…well…regular. (See “ Carrot Soup “.)
This desire had me looking once again at the stack of Cook’s Illustrated magazines piled up next to my bed. I have never once looked at a Cook’s Illustrated before bed so I don’t know why this location became their home. Each and every one of them looks nearly identical to me so even if I were actually interested in something specific I would more than likely never be able to find it again.
In one spotted this technique for poaching fish that isn’t really poaching at all. The fish is cooked above the waterline and any flavor that is lost to the water is reduced back and used in the herbed topping. It they are good at anything at all Cook’s Illustrated good at parsing food recipes and then coming up with interesting variations on technique to get more consistent results. This particular gem of a technique is the perfect example of where they excel. Where some cooking magazines and books are about being innovative and decorative, CI is about science and technique.
The legendary Escoffier must have understood the perils of poaching salmon when he recommended poaching it in a Court-Bouillon. Court-Bouillon is just a fancy French name for flavored poaching liquid. so if you’ve ever added vinegar to the water for a poached egg, congratulations, you have mastered the Court-Bouillon! Often it contains wine, aromatic spices and herbs, vegetables, lemon juice and anything else with flavor that the chef wishes to impart on the item being poached. Court Bouillon exists to add flavor where the poaching might remove it and then carry it out through the kitchen drain.
Not so here with this inventive method. The flavors never leave the finished product so you don’t need much addition to the steaming water. The flavor from the salmon will get reduced after cooking and then added back with the chopped herbs on top of the dish.
This one is a keeper and I’ll be doing it again soon. Perhaps I’d better go visit those magazines again to see what else I had passed over?
Not So Poached Salmon with Capers and Herbs
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
This is what you will need:
- 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves , stems reserved
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves , stems reserved
- 2 small shallots , minced (about 4 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 skinless salmon fillet (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), about 1 1/2 inches at thickest part, white membrane
- removed, fillet cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces (see note)
- 2 tablespoons capers , rinsed and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
This is how you make it:
- Cut top and bottom off 1 lemon; cut into 8 to ten 1 /4-inch-thick slices. Cut remaining lemon into 8 wedges and set aside. Arrange lemon slices in single layer across bottom of 12-inch skillet. Scatter herb stems and 2 tablespoons minced shallots ev enly over lemon slices. Add wine and water.
- Place salmon fillets in skillet, skinned-side down, on top of lemon slices. Set pan ov er high heat and bring liquid to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cov er, and cook until sides are opaque but center of thickest part is still translucent (or until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 125 degrees), 1 1 to 16 minutes. Remove pan from heat and, using spatula, carefully transfer salmon and lemon slices to paper towel-lined plate and tent loosely with foil.
- Return pan to high heat and simmer cooking liquid until slightly thickened and reduced to 2 tablespoons, 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons shallots, chopped herbs, capers, honey , and olive oil in medium bowl. Strain reduced cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into bowl with herb-caper mixture, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Whisk to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Season salmon lightly with salt and pepper. Using spatula, carefully lift and tilt salmon fillets to remove lemon slices. Place salmon on serv ing platter or indiv idual plates and spoon vinaigrette over top. Serv e, passing reserved lemon wedges separately.