Most cookbooks you look up will tell you to poach salmon in a court bouillon. This is a mixture of wine and water and perhaps some sliced carrots, onion, peppercorns and a bouquet garni including a bay leaf, but I feel very strongly that a beautiful salmon is at it’s best poached gently in just boiling salted water.
The proportion of salt to water is very important. We use 1 rounded tablespoon of salt to every
Choose a saucepan that fits the piece of fish exactly: an oval cast-iron saucepan is usually perfect. Half fill with measured salted water, bring to the boil, put in the piece of fish, cover, bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, allow to sit in the water and serve within 15–20 minutes.
If a small piece of fish is cooked in a large saucepan of water, much of the flavour will escape into the water, so for this reason we use the smallest saucepan possible. Needless to say we never poach a salmon cudet because in that case one has the maximum surface exposed to the water and therefore maximum loss of flavour. A salmon cutlet is best dipped in a little seasoned flour and cooked slowly in a little butter in a pan, or alternatively pan-grilled with a little butter. Serve with a few pats of maître d’hôtel butter and a wedge of lemon.
© 2001 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.