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Poached Sockeye Salmon

Poached Sockeye Salmon
  

My neighborhood supermarket had wild-caught sockeye salmon for $8.99 a pound and a couple of different versions of farm-raised "Atlantic Salmon"  for an average of $4.99 a pound. For several reasons -- mostly related to sustainability and taste -- I've come to prefer the wild-caught salmon from the Pacific northwest to the pale, overly fatty and bland farm-raised East-coast product. Yes, I understand that the the fish has to travel 3000 miles to get to my table, and that it's therefore not local, but this is a matter of taste. Not only is the color of the uncooked fish an inspiring red-orange, but also the taste is stronger and more nuanced than the pallid farm-raised cousin.

Anyway, I bought it.

Poaching is the best way to go with most fish fillets, since it's gentle and allows delicate fillets to keep their integrity. And, the poaching liquid, when reduced, makes a flavorful sauce. This dish, though it has a fairly long list of ingredients, is actually quite simple: make a broth, poach the fish in it, then reduce the broth to serve as a sauce. The addition of some carrots, green peppers and cilantro serves to add interest to the sauce and the orange color of the carrots seems to intensify the visual appeal of these beautiful sockeye fillets.

Poached Sockeye Salmon

serves 4

1-1/2 lb salmon fillet, skin and small bones removed
1 C fish scraps, fish skins, shrimp shells, etc.
2 C water
1 slice lemon
1 C white wine
1/2 cup fennel chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 T tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/4 carrot chopped
1/2 C chopped leek tops
1/4 carrot cut in 1/8" sticks
2 T chopped green pepper
3 T butter
1 T cilantro, minced
hot sauce to taste
fish sauce to taste

Combine fish scraps, water, lemon, wine, fennel, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, tomato paste, bay leaf, chopped carrot and leek tops in a saucepan. Simmer 20 - 30 minutes. Strain and reserve broth.

Cut the fillet into 4 serving pieces. Place the broth in a large skillet and bring to a simmer. Lay the fillet pieces in the broth and adjust heat so the water barely bubbles. Poach 4 minutes per inch of fillet thickness for very rare (6 minutes if you like it done more -- though just so you know I don't approve of this), turning once.  Remove fish to a warm plate and cover loosely with foil.

Add the carrot sticks and chopped green pepper  to the pan and raise the heat to high. Reduce the liquid in the pan until it starts to thicken. Stir in the butter until it melts and then stir in the minced cilantro. Correct the seasoning with fish sauce and hot sauce. To serve, spoon a puddle of the sauce into each plate, then place a piece of salmon in the puddle. Spoon on some of the carrots and green pepper bits. Garnish with a cilantro sprig if you like.

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Comments

This looks delicious. I'm wondering, though, if you have ever considered replacing the white wine with sake. It's a bit more flavor-pungent in my mouth and I enjoyed the results when a friend prepared it for me. I don't know much about wines beyond the typical "Like it, dont' like it" response so I thought I would ask you.

Hi Stephen, just stumbled onto your blog. I prefer wild salmon to any farmed salmon. You do pay a bit more for it but it's worth it. A fish that has lost it's appeal to the public, different from the good old days when it was once the king of fish. Regards John

Like you I prefer the wild-caught salmon. I have never poached fish before and want to try this recipe, which looks delicious. I do have a question concerning the fennel - do you use just the bulb and/or foliage. If you use the bulb do you serve it with the carrots? Or might you braise it first? Thanks!

Hi Mary...Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment...in this recipe the fennel is just used to flavor the broth and then strained out...so you could chop the tops and use that, or use the bulb portion. In recipes that call for the fennel to be cooked and served most people just use the bulb, as the top stalks and fronds can be very stringy. I just use the top parts for flavoring broth as in this recipe.

Best, Stephen

Good call on the wild, Stephen. Just found yr blog and am enjoying it. I live in Seattle and the farmed issue is big here. WA has a few salmon farms and BC has many. AK gets the big picture: they've outlawed farms and are trying to protect wild fish and fishermen. There's no comparison. Farmed salmon is an imposter, a fake, a dyed pink hunk of mush that can't be properly bbq'ed b/c it goes to pieces on the grill.
Cheers, Finny

I have to question the provenance of your sockeye salmon since "wild caught" Pacific sockeye is 6 months out of season. It is either frozen or farm raised, if in fact it is sockeye.

I prefer slow roasting at about 110 C for 20 minutes or so, its much more flavorful than poached.

Hello from Alaska!
Yes, I agree. Our salmon is wonderful! Stephen, do you have a favorite suggestion for a good wine for this recipe?
I love your site. Thank you! Thank you!
Floss C.

Hey Stephen,

Here's another tidbit for you if you want to make sure that you are eating wild salmon. I'm sure you've heard about the NYT story that found that 11 of 12 retailers selling wild salmon were actually selling farmed. Anyway...sockeye is the only of the 5 Pacific salmon species that the farmers haven't figured out how to raise (because sockeye eat plankton and krill, unlike other species that eat small fish). This, of course, leaves another question: how do you know that the species really is sockeye? But, I only buy sockeye for that reason and many others.

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