Friday, August 23, 2013

Summer Sockeye Salmon

by Sheila Connolly

Poached sockeye salmon with yoghurt dill sauce

I love it when a plan comes together. (Much as I hate to admit it, I think this quote comes from the original television show The A Team. Very highbrow.)

Chef Mark Bittman writes a regular food column for the New York Times Sunday magazine.  The columns are fun because he usually picks one food item and shows multiple ways of preparing it, in a format that is nearly a spreadsheet.  Even if you never end up making any of the dishes, the recipes provide all sorts of interesting ideas.

Recently he wrote about salmon—specifically Pacific wild salmon (Atlantic salmon is endangered now).  Pacific species include king/Chinook, sockeye and coho, which Bittman says far surpass any of the pink fleshy farm-raised salmon in flavor.  Not so much in availability, I've found, but I'm not going to repeat my rant about why I can't get decent fish when I live 20 miles from an ocean. This comes from the other side of the country anyway.

Yes, my local market does carry both farm-raised salmon (fresh) and sockeye salmon (frozen then thawed, but at least it's American and wild-caught).  There are clearly trade-offs.

Sockeye salmon filet (about one pound)

The wild salmon has less fat, so requires a bit more attention in cooking.  It's also finer grained and darker in color, and the filets tend to be thinner (at least at our market).  But one of Bittman's suggestions made a lot of sense to me, and since the summer sockeye salmon season is short (say that fast a few times), it's good to have a recipe that doesn't require heating up your kitchen to make it. (And I'll confess that I have little luck with grilling fish—it usually sticks to the grill and falls apart.)

It fits!

You've noticed I've been dithering on about antique cookware recently.  Well, I'm not done quite yet.  Having found an easy summer salmon recipe, I realized:  (1) I have a vintage French fish poacher (that I bought from a guy selling stuff by the side of the road—he thought it was a toolbox and I paid $5 for it), and (2) Adora, my new stove, has a central burner that is exactly the same size and shape as my fish poacher, and I hadn't even tested it yet.  Obviously this was meant to be!

Adora's burner (there's a grill for it too)

Poached Sockeye Salmon (courtesy of Mark Bittman)

Note:  for my husband and myself, we usually buy about a pound of fish, as a single filet.

One salmon filet, skin-on – approximately 1 lb. (make sure you check carefully for bones—there may be a line of slender ones running the length of the filet, but pliers work just fine to remove them)

1 cup soy sauce
Unpeeled ginger, sliced (an inch-long, maybe, depending on how wide it is)
Scallion tops (the green part) – no need to chop

Place your filet in a pot or pan that will hold it flat.

(no liquid yet)

Barely cover the fish with water.  Then add the soy sauce, ginger slices and salmon tops.

Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for one minute.  The total timing on this is hard to predict, since it will vary with your pan and your burner.  In any case, do not overcook your fish!

Turn off the heat, and let the salmon sit in the hot liquid until it is tender, about 10 minutes.

Carefully drain your fish.  Bittman says you can chill it for a day in the refrigerator, or you can eat it warm or room temperature, garnished with sliced scallions and a light sprinkling of sesame oil (not too much—that stuff is strong). The poaching gives the fish a nice subtle flavor and keeps it from drying out.

The salmon filet, poached

You can also serve it with a flavored mayonnaise (add some tarragon and lemon juice, or cilantro and lime juice—keep it quick and light).

And enjoy one of the short-lived pleasures of late summer!

Coming October 1


  1. Wow your stove burner is amazing! I love Mark Bittman too, this sounds like a classic recipe.

  2. Sounds fabulous, Sheila. My new stove (which arrives on Labor Day!) has the same central burner. I think I need to find a fish-poaching pan...

  3. I have stove envy! Yours looks wonderful.
    You say to "add the soy sauce, ginger slices and salmon tops." I'm sure you mean the scallions tops. Isn't amazing how we see what we expect to see? Proof reading is a challenge.
    The fish looks lovely.

  4. I adore salmon. This one is a keeper! Thanks for sharing. What a nice cover for the next in your apple series!

    Daryl / Avery

  5. Adora sounds like a very well thought out range! I have to tell you that I envy your fish poacher. $5? That's the deal of the century!