Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poached Salmon "au Printemps"

Poached Salmon "au Printemps" - made April 27, 2011 from Cooking for One by Mark Erickson, CMC and Lisa Erickson

I love salmon.  Due to my limited cooking skills, the most I usually do to salmon is salt and pepper it, lay some lemon slices over it and shove into a 350 degree oven to bake until done.  This time, however, I decided to spread my culinary wings to try this recipe, from the same cookbook that showed me there's nothing frightening about making homemade tomato sauce.  At first glance, I almost passed over this recipe as it looked too complicated and too involved.  You had to make something to poach the salmon in, you had to make a sauce for it then you had to add some garnish.  Sounded like a lot of bother for a piece of salmon I'm going to consume in one meal.  But that's the point of Cooking for One.  The authors, a husband and wife team who also graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, postulate that there's no reason single cooks shouldn't be able to prepare and enjoy tasty, healthy meals for themselves.  Okay then.  Onward.

As with all my cooking endeavors, I end up having to psych myself up to do it then once I do, it turns out to be no big deal.  The hardest part of the recipe for me turned out to be figuring out what a shallot was.  Fortunately, they sell them at Trader Joe's and even more fortunately, they're clearly marked as shallots so I could safely purchase them without asking the Trader Joe people embarrassing questions like "what's a shallot?" (In case you're wondering, it's a smallish type of onion.) Once I had all my ingredients lined up, I prepped everything before I turned the stovetop on.  I find that for someone like me who doesn't cook very much, there's less stress if you prepare everything ahead of time (mise en place).  Translated: I don't freak out as much.  Even if there were three distinct things to do: prepare the poaching liquid, do the beurre blanc and chop the printemps garnish.  For those of you who've had high school French, you might remember "printemps" means springtime.

I followed the recipe almost faithfully but I did substitute corn kernels for the peas, simply because I don't like peas, springtime or not.  Once I had everything prepped and my mise on place was completed, this recipe turned out to be pretty easy to put together.  I let the salmon sit in the heat of the poaching liquid for the requisite 5 minutes but it turns out that wasn't long enough and my salmon was still pink-raw in the center so I had to warm it up further before I was satisfied it wasn't sashimi.  The sauce was really good and I have to admit, the whole dish really did feel like it was flavored with springtime.  The lemon and chives in the beurre blanc and just the general lightness of the dish (despite the heavy cream) added to that impression.  Another keeper recipe from this book. This beats my old salt, pepper and lemon trick with salmon any day.

Poached Salmon
1 piece salmon fillet, about 5 ounces
Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
½ teaspoon unsalted butter
1 ½ teaspoons minced shallots
1 sprig thyme
2 tablespoons white wine
¾ cup homemade chicken stock

Beurre Blanc
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Printemps Garnish
1/3 cup shelled green peas, blanched if fresh or thawed if frozen
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 teaspoons chopped chives, cut into ¾-inch pieces

1.      Season the salmon with salt and pepper and set aside.
2.      Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the shallots and thyme to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the shallots are translucent, about 1 minute.  Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute.
3.      Turn the heat off and add the salmon.  Cover the skillet and let the fish cook until it is just barely opaque in the center, about 5 minutes.  Remove the fish from the skillet and set it on a warm plate, loosely covered to keep warm while preparing the beurre blanc.
4.      To prepare the beurre blance, return the skillet to medium-high heat and let the cooking liquid reduce by half, about 4 minutes.  Strain through a fine sieve.  Return 3 tablespoons of the poaching liquid to the pan.  Add the white wine and heavy cream.  Simmer until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the butter, about 1 teaspoon at a time.
5.      Taste the sauce and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add the peas, egg and chives to the sauce and return the saucepan to very low heat to gently warm it.  Place salmon in a deep plate and spoon the sauce over and around the fish.  Serve immediately.