Poached salmon reconsidered

Chilled, moist salmon served with a salad – preferably dressed in genuine salad cream – makes a very delicious entrée on a hot day. Somehow a poached piece of this coral coloured fish is also rather more posh than grilled salmon. Why is that? I have no idea but for whatever reason, serving poached fish demands real napkins while grilled can be served quite acceptably with a paper version.

I thought I had been poaching salmon for years but, as I think about it, I realize I have, in fact, been coddling salmon. While poaching requires gently cooking a food in liquid at just below the boiling point, coddling is even more gentle.

When coddling, the cooking liquid is brought to a simmer and then the food is added. Immediately the pan is covered and the heat is turned off. The fish cooks in the liquid very gently. It’s the exact same method that I use to hard cook eggs in their shells. The results are wonderful so why not give it a try yourself this week?

Dana’s Coddled Salmon Tips

1. Bring the cooking liquid (court bouillon, fish stock or even clam juice will do) to a boil.
2. Add the fish and return to a gentle boil.
3. Remove pan from heat.
4. Cover tightly.
5. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is cooked to desired doneness.
6. Remove fish immediately if serving fish hot.
7. If serving fish cold, place pan in an ice bath to cool quickly. Refrigerate.
8. Remove fish from cooled juices only when ready to serve.


12 Responses to Poached salmon reconsidered

  1. Cheryl says:

    Oh man, this is the second blog I’ve looked at today and the 2nd salmon recipe I’ve seen. Someone is definitely trying to tell me to give up the beef kabobs and hit the fishmarket.

    Consider it done. Your version looks lovely.

  2. Marie says:

    Beautifully done, and I love the idea for hard cooked eggs, I always have a problem with the shell not peeling good, would this help?

  3. giz says:

    Totally my favourite way to eat salmon and it looks out of this world.

  4. Aran says:

    for some reason, the word poached doesn’t attract a lot of people. maybe because grill marks are associated with flavor, but i agree, poached fish can be so delicious when the poaching liquid is super flavorful!

  5. Well, all I can say is great minds think alike…

    Coddling is a much healthier version than my pan fried method. I’ll have to give it a try next time. Does that mean I get an extra piece of dessert?

  6. danamccauley says:

    No Char, it means you get two extra pieces.

    And Aran, so true. The poaching liquid does have to be full-flavored to have a decent end result.

    Marie, I find egg shells hit and miss to remove with any method. I’ve heard of techniques that supposedly help make them peel better than others but I think a lot if comes down to luck. The fresher the eggs the better they seem to peel though. The real benefit with coddling eggs is that you usually avoid the dark sulfur ring that develops from cooking eggs too quickly.

  7. Hi Dana, rather than start with hot liquid and let it cool, which with some methods can still overcook the protein, I prefer to go the other direction. I either start with cold liquid and cold protein, such as when I poaching fresh sausages or chicken, or start with the liquid at 10 to 20 degrees above the temperature I want to cook the protein to and then add the cold protein, which is what I do for seafood. In this manner I can limit the upper temperature of the protein and guarantee that it doesn’t overcook. This is similar to the way some chefs are doing their sous vide cooking. I have found that I can titrate the temperature of the poaching liquid fairly consistently with the control on my hob. This is the method I discuss in my “Memories of Poaching” article .

  8. Cakespy says:

    I have in the last year become a devotee of poached fish. I agree with Aran, that when it’s made in a flavorful liquid it can make you a believer. If only my dear Mr. Cakespy would stop being a vegetarian. I only get to have fish when he’s out of town or I’m out to eat (the smell can be rather strong in our tiny apartment!)

  9. pat sinclair says:

    Recently I tried a new method (for me) that I read about in Fine Cooking. It involves searing the bottom of the fish in a very hot pan and finishing in a hot oven. The fish stays moist and it’s easy to control doneness. I like salmon merium rare but I prefer sone fish cooked through. I’m going to poach next time !

    I cook eggs that same way that you do but I’ve found consistanly that older eggs are much easier to peel. I also use an egg-piercer to punch a tiny hole in the shells before cooking. Unfortunately egg-piercers are hard to find.

  10. danamccauley says:

    THat does sound like a great way to cook fish Pat. My husband does that often with skin on fish (usually salmon although he used it on sea bass years ago when it was not yet known to be endangered). He starts the fish in the very hot pan with the skin side down so that it gets super crispy.

    The one thing I’ve learned is that you need to use the hood fan when you use that method because the intial searing can make a lot of splatter.

    Thanks for the egg tips, too. I haven’t seen an egg piercer in ages, you’re right!

  11. […] Filed under: Cooking, Food, Howto — depatty @ 6:48 pm Tags: Cooking, Food, Howto Poached salmon reconsidered « Dana McCauley’s food blog Dana’s Coddled Salmon […]

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