Adventures in white wine poached salmon

My household is vegetarian, so it’s often all veggies all the time. The idea of having raw meat in the kitchen is extremely alarming (mostly for me) on a must-sanitize-everything-immediately order of duty after all of the meat has been prepared and thrown into the pan.

I’ve been craving non-vegetarian foods lately, though — burgers, sausage, fish, chicken, just to name a few of my preoccupations over the past few weeks. And, after going grocery shopping earlier, I decided to buy a half pound of salmon to cook at home.

The question was — how should I cook it? I had been raised in a pan-searing family, where salmon is marinated in soy sauce, yoshida sauce, and oyster sauce mixed with corn starch and the filet is cooked with olive oil in a pan with sliced onion. The last time I made salmon this way, maybe a month or two ago, it ended up being rather salty and soy-y, so I thought I would try something different this time. Why not try poaching?

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What I found out over the course of salmon poaching research: white wine and lemon are flavorfully complementary (read: awesome) with salmon. Also, the makeup of the poaching broth is essential to the flavor of the dish. Recipes I read (such as this one, an easy Google away) suggested to poach in just white wine and water, while others suggested flavoring the mixture with vegetable broth.

I wanted to avoid using bullion, canned stock, and any ingredients I didn’t put together myself in the poaching broth, so I decided to infuse flavors into the salmon in other ways. I made a marinade for the salmon that involved white wine (we happened to have a Kung-Fu Girl Riesling around, which ended up being a delicious choice), lemon, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. I also made a poaching broth from scratch — I sauteed onions, celery, and whole cloves of garlic on the stove, then filled the pan with about half an inch of a water, white wine, black pepper, and a bit of salt.

The dish turned out wonderfully. The salmon was light, the flavor was complex and subtle from the myriad fresh ingredients, and the broth was hearty and flavorful. The vegetables soaked up a lot of the lemony tang and the flavor of the white wine, too. I still have half a filet sitting in the pan, and it’s been difficult to not charge into the kitchen and eat it immediately.

Here’s the recipe (I’ve never written one before, so bear with me):

Ingredients
1/2 pound of fresh salmon filet
6 garlic cloves (I really like garlic, so this quantity can be reduced)
1/2 a large sweet onion
1 1/2 cups of white wine (in this case, Kung Fu Girl Riesling)
2 stalks of celery
6 teaspoons of lemon juice
Gratuitous amount of freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons of salt (and some extra salt to taste)

Instructions
1.) Make a marinade for the salmon by mincing three cloves of garlic and placing into a measuring cup with 1/2 cup of wine, 3 teaspoons of lemon juice, lots of cracked pepper (at least 15 seconds worth of grinding, for me) and a teaspoon of salt. Let the mixture infuse for 5-10 minutes. Taste the marinade, if you want, to check if it’s salty enough for marination purposes.
2.) Pour the marinade over the filet of salmon. Let the first side of the filet marinate for about 10-20 minutes, then flip over the filet and let the other side marinate for about the same amount of time.
3.) Roughly chop up the celery and onion. Place in a hot pan (I used a 5 quart pan) with olive oil and 3 whole cloves of garlic. Saute the veggies until very aromatic and starting to brown.
4.) Pour a mixture of 1 cup of white wine, along with 1 cup of water and 3 teaspoons of lemon juice into the pan so that the liquid covers the vegetables. If the veggies aren’t covered, add a bit more water. Add a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and let the broth simmer for 20 minutes.
5.) Place the salmon filet in the pan, raising the heat slightly, and cover so that the broth is simmering around the salmon. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
6.) Turn over the salmon filet after a bit (especially if you don’t have a ton of liquid in the pan) to make sure the salmon is cooked through.
7.) Serve on a plate. EAT.

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