Chilled Poached Salmon with White Beans and Russian (Black Caviar) Dressing

The best poached salmon—hot or cold—will be from a fish poached whole, but that is a lot of fish and expense if not for a lot of people. So if you are cooking for four, buy a whole piece of filet and cook it very slowly, so that it does not dry out and get that white “cardboard” effect on the outer layer of flesh.

For poached salmon (or any other fish) to be served at room temperature or slightly chilled, it is best to leave it in the poaching liquid to cool down, since it stays more moist that way and picks up added flavor. This makes the timing more difficult, however, so take into account the decreased cooking time involved if you are using this method.

Save the strained poaching liquid for soups, or reduce with white wine for fish essence. By all means, feel free to add some cooked artichoke bottoms (sliced and marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper) to the white beans. Or celery root done the same way. And don’t forget to get some cheesecloth before starting this dish.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds salmon fillet, skin left on
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon, stemmed, stems and leaves saved separately, leaves chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • ¾ cup Russian dressing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Wrap the salmon fillet in cheesecloth, tying the ends and leaving 4-inch pieces on each end as “handles.” Put the salmon in a pan just large enough to hold the fillet, and add the stock. It should cover the fish by 1 inch. If it does not, add water. Add the tarragon stems and bay leaves. If the stock is not salted, add 1 tablespoon salt.

Bring to a bare simmer over high heat, then turn off the heat. Let the fish sit 5 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. By all means, lift it out to check for doneness. If the fish is raw in the center put it back. If just barely translucent in the center, it is done. Let the stock cool and put the fish back in the cooled stock. Then unwrap the salmon and remove the cheesecloth. Remove the skin, and divide the salmon into portions. Mix the olive oil with the lime juice, the chopped tarragon leaves, and a pinch of salt. Brush the mixture over the salmon and set aside.

When ready to serve the salmon, mix the white beans, garlic, cardamom, lime zest, and shallots together. Salt and pepper generously.

Put the beans in the center of the plates, the salmon pieces on top of the beans, and a dollop of the caviar-infused Russian dressing on top of each piece of fish, passing the rest of the sauce.

Variation

Mix four slices of chopped cooked hot bacon or pancetta and a tablespoon of shredded rose petals into the white beans, or put the salmon in the center of some cooked vegetables (green beans, asparagus, favas, carrots, and so on) marinated in lemon juice, basil, and sesame oil. Then sprinkle chopped hot bacon or pancetta on top along with the shredded roses or other flowers.

Geranium

June 16, 1989. Oil, spackle, and tar over wood, 12" x 12". Private collection.

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