Poached Salmon with Herb and Caper Vinaigrette

From America's Test Kitchen Season 9: Fish Made Easy

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Why this recipe works:

For a poached salmon recipe with supple salmon accented by the delicate flavor of the poaching liquid—in under half an hour—we came up with some tricks: Using less poaching liquid allowed us to cut back on the vegetables and aromatics in the broth, saving preparation time; adding alcohol to… read more

For a poached salmon recipe with supple salmon accented by the delicate flavor of the poaching liquid—in under half an hour—we came up with some tricks: Using less poaching liquid allowed us to cut back on the vegetables and aromatics in the broth, saving preparation time; adding alcohol to the liquid lowered its boiling point, creating steam that cooked the part of the fish that wasn’t submerged; and resting the fish on lemon slices prevented the bottom from overcooking.

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Serves 4

To ensure even-sized pieces of fish, we prefer to buy a whole center-cut fillet and cut it into four pieces. If a skinless whole fillet is unavailable, follow the recipe as directed with a skin-on fillet, adding 3 to 4 minutes to the cooking time in step 2. Remove the skin after cooking (see instructions below). This recipe will yield salmon fillets cooked to medium. If you prefer rare salmon (translucent in the center), reduce the cooking time by 2 minutes, or until the salmon registers 110 degrees in the thickest part.

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves, stems reserved
  • 2 small shallots, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 skinless salmon fillet (1 3/4 to 2 pounds), about 1 1/2 inches at thickest part, white membrane removed, fillet cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. Cut top and bottom off 1 lemon; cut into 8 to ten 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut remaining lemon into 8 wedges and set aside. Arrange lemon slices in single layer across bottom of 12-inch skillet. Scatter herb stems and 2 tablespoons minced shallots evenly over lemon slices. Add wine and water.

    2. Place salmon fillets in skillet, skinned-side down, on top of lemon slices. Set pan over high heat and bring liquid to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until sides are opaque but center of thickest part is still translucent (or until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 125 degrees), 11 to 16 minutes. Remove pan from heat and, using spatula, carefully transfer salmon and lemon slices to paper towel-lined plate and tent loosely with foil.

    3. Return pan to high heat and simmer cooking liquid until slightly thickened and reduced to 2 tablespoons, 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons shallots, chopped herbs, capers, honey, and olive oil in medium bowl. Strain reduced cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into bowl with herb-caper mixture, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Whisk to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. Season salmon lightly with salt and pepper. Using spatula, carefully lift and tilt salmon fillets to remove lemon slices. Place salmon on serving platter or individual plates and spoon vinaigrette over top. Serve, passing reserved lemon wedges separately.

Technique

Benefits of Belly Fat

A center-cut salmon fillet typically tapers down on one side to the fattier belly of the fish. The belly’s fattiness helps keep this section of the fish moist, despite its thinner profile. The belly area is sometimes covered with a chewy white membrane, which should be trimmed away before cooking. We also like to neaten up any ragged edges that can dry out and fray during cooking.

From left to right, meaty center, belly area, white membrane, and ragged edges.

Technique

A Fish (Almost) Out of Water

STANDARD POACHThe classic poaching method calls for submerging salmon completely in liquid in a deep pan, which causes flavor to leach out and leads to dry, flavorless fish.

SHALLOW POACHIn our method, small amounts of liquid allow the salmon to cook at a lower temperature, preserving flavor. Lemon slices under the fillets keep their bottoms from overcooking.

Technique

Removing Skin from Salmon

If you can only find skin-on fillets, removing the skin is simple. Transfer the cooked fillet to a paper towel-lined plate and allow it to cool slightly. Gently slide a thin, wide spatula between the flesh and skin and use the fingers of your free hand to help separate the skin. It should peel off easily and in one piece.

Detail sfs herb poached salmon cucumber dill salad 14
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