Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce & Fingerling Potatoes

 Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce & Fingerling Potatoes
Serves 6
Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce & Fingerling Potatoes 
Salmon is an amazingly simple and scrumptious quick meal. I especially love fresh wild king salmon, although you could use any of your favorite sustainable salmon varieties. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program has a wonderful website (and iPhone app) on sustainable fish in your area. (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx) The wild-caught Coho salmon from Alaska is one of their top recommended king salmons. It is a rich-flavored fish with a lovely pink color. Other wild market names include Chinook, Chum, King, Pink, Red, and Sockeye – all from Alaska. Farmed in tank systems in the  U. S. are Coho, Sake and Silver salmon market names. These too are an excellent choice.

The health benefits of eating fish in general are widely appreciated. In addition to the omega-3 beneficial fatty acids, salmon is also high in protein. A 4 oz portion provides a full day’s supply of Vitamin D, as well as B12, niacin and selenium. Omega-3s are found in every kind of fish but are especially high in fish such as salmon that store a lot of the oils in their muscles. These fatty acids in fish are derived from plants (algae, leaves, grass). In wild salmon, the amount and type of omega-3s are based on the algae and plankton found in their diet. In farmed salmon, the omega-3 levels are dependent on what type of feed is provided.

Fishmongers store fish at 38 degree F, colder than most home refrigerators. Once purchased, rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry, and wrap in a clean plastic wrap; put the fish in a clean plastic bag and store on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator with a resealable plastic freezer bag or two of crushed ice on top. Very fresh fish will last 3-5 days if handled correctly. To find the pin bones, which are not attached to the skeleton, run your fingers over the surface of the fillets. Use needle-nose pliers or fish tweezers to remove bones, pulling with the grain of the flesh to keep it from tearing. Wait until after cooking to remove the skin: it will slip right off.

I thought it might be a fun to demonstrate the myriad of ways one could serve poached salmon. This is one recipe to try - it can be served warm, room temperature or cold.  How versatile!  Next week - Poached Salmon with Peas and Morels.

FIrst step: Poaching Salmon
Salmon--pre poaching. Gorgeous color and marbling!
Ingredients for Salmon
  • 2½ C dry white wine
  • 2½ C water
  • 3 to 3½ lb salmon fillet, about 1½” thick, with skin

Ingredients for fingerling potatoes
  • 2 bunches of fresh tarragon 
  • large bunch of chives 
  • 1 large shallot.
  • ¾ C fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
  • 1 C Best Foods (or Hellman’s) lite mayonnaise
  • ¼ C unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
The first step is to poach the salmon, which guarantees a moister fish compared to the risk of barbequing or broiling. In a deep 10-inch skillet bring 2½ C dry white wine and 2½ C water to a simmer, covered. Cut a 3 to 3½ lb salmon fillet, about 1½” thick, with skin into six pieces and season with salt and pepper. 
Salted and peppered
Submerge 3 salmon pieces, skin sides down, in simmering liquid (add hot water if necessary to just cover salmon) and poach at a bare simmer, covered, 7 minutes, or until just cooked through and barely opaque in the center. Transfer cooked salmon with a slotted spatula to a platter and poach remaining salmon.

When the salmon is cool enough to handle, peel off skin and, if desired, with a sharp knife scrape off any dark meat. Salmon may be cooked 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring it to a cool room temperature just before serving.

Taking 2 bunches of fresh tarragon (about 1 ounce total); pick enough leaves to measure ½ C (do not pack). Chop a large bunch of chives to measure 1/3 C. Coarsely chop 1 large shallot. In a food processor puree tarragon, chives, and shallot with ¾ C fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves, 1 C Best Foods (or Hellman’s) lite mayonnaise, ¼ C unseasoned rice vinegar and 2 tsp Dijon mustard. Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to cool room temperature before serving.

Fresh tarragon
Chopped chives
Fresh parsley
Cut 1½ lb fingerling or other new potatoes lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. In a steamer set over boiling water, steam potatoes until just tender, about 6-8 minutes. Test with a fork. Remove from steamer and place on paper towels to dry. Season potatoes with salt and pepper.
Fingerling potatoes

To serve: Spoon sauce onto 6 plates and arrange some potatoes in a circle overlapping slightly, on top of sauce (see pic at the top of this recipe). Arrange salmon on top of the potatoes. Garnish with optional additional chopped parsley or chives or with diagonally cut sugar snap peas. This can all be done one day ahead, served warm or cool room temperature.  It would be a great picnic meal!

Watch for the next poached salmon recipe with peas and morels next week.  And, enjoy this one now!



  1. Larue-
    Is there another fish I could substitute for salmon in this and other recipes that would cook in about the same amount of time and benefit from same preparation. Problem is I love salmon, husband hates it...would like to do recipes with two different fish side by side. Can you help?

  2. Great Question! There are many fish that poach easily and well: halibut, mahi mahi, orange roughy, artic char & turbot. I would not poach in the same pan as the salmon but you could certainly do them side by side. It is best to have a hefty boneless fillet to cook comparably - but if worried it will fall apart in the poaching liquid - you could wrap in a cheesecloth, tie off the ends, and poach. The timing depends on both size and type with fish fillets thick fillets 5-12 min, thin fillets 3-6 min. If you are a beginner in this arena, the best way to make sure you don't overcook fish is to keep your eye on it. Fish changes color as it cooks. Most types of fish turn from translucent to opaque, or from bright to pastel. Also, don't be afraid to touch the fish. Especially when you poach fish, you need not fear getting burned. Gently put the flat part of the first joint of your forefinger on the fish. Don't use your fingertip; it might not be sensitive enough. Cooked fish should be firmer and more resilient, not too soft or overly flaky. The tarragon sauce is a classic with salmon but would work well with all others. The sauce next week would also work with all of the above. Good luck. Let me know how it comes out!

  3. Thank you, Larue--my local fish market (on Cass Street) usually has at least one of the fish you recommend. Like the cheesecloth tip too.

    1. Glad to help. Today's post with the morels and peas also work great with a number of different fish noted above!!