Sort of Poached Salmon

My friend Erik used to be a chef, and he also spent a lot of time in Alaska. Therefore, he has strong opinions about salmon. Chief among them is never to buy salmon in Pittsburgh. But, if you break this rule, for god’s sake don’t poach the fish. Poached salmon, to Erik, is like a boiled beef roast. You end up with a piece of fish that is certainly cooked, but is no longer really good for anything but carrying large spoonfuls of garlic mayonnaise from your plate to your mouth. With Erik in mind, my normal way of cooking salmon is to saute it and then roast it by throwing the saute pan in the oven. This works very well for the fattier varieties of fish, but I always had trouble with the fancy and somewhat leaner Copper River and Coho salmon that shows up at Whole Foods every year. When roasting the leaner fish, I would always end up with a piece of fish that tasted OK, but was disappointingly dry and bland.

So, having first gone against Erik’s admonitions and bought a too-expensive piece of Coho, I decided to risk his further wrath and semi-poach the fish in the oven, to try and keep the fish moist and tasty. It worked pretty well, so for your edification, here’s what you do.

Start with:

1 filet of salmon. We had a whole side of the Coho, around two pounds. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Rub olive oil all over it.

1/2 of a yellow onion cut up. You could use more.

1 handful of chopped celery.

If you are not lazy like me, you should probably also chop up a carrot really small. But I was lazy and did not do this.

Take half a lemon, slice it up.

Now heat up a saute pan. Add olive oil and a bit of butter, toss in the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are soft. This will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Now get a baking dish as long as the piece of salmon you have. Pour white wine and stock into the pan. You want it to be maybe 1/4 inch high, but you don’t want it to cover the top of the fish, just a bit on the bottom. Toss the fish in, put the veggies and lemon on top, and then top the whole thing with a tablespoon chunk of cold butter.

Put the dish into a 350 degree oven. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the butter should melt. Open the oven and scrape the veggies off the fish and mix the butter into the liquid. Baste the fish once with the results. Bake until the fish is cooked to where you like it. I like it at just past medium rare, which took maybe another 10 minutes. Be careful about this, you don’t want to kill the salmon.

I’m going to claim to Erik that this is really a baked salmon, not poached. It did succeed in keeping the salmon tasting like salmon, while also keeping it moist and yummy.

Obligatory gripe

A big raspberry to Whole Foods, by the way, for the following sin. You’d think at the prices they charge for a filet of salmon, they could take out the god damned pin bones. I don’t pay for a filet to bite down on huge pin bones. Get with it.