November 17, 2018

Olive oil poached wild salmon

Wild salmon season is here.

That means we have hit the ethical food sweetspot, where the most sustainable overlaps with the most delicious.   Add one more circle to the Venn diagram– it's kosher!– and you have a Foodaism trifecta in our home.   From June to September, we eat wild salmon until we grow gills.

King, or chinook,  salmon, the fattiest and most expensive, can run you close to $40/pound at Santa Monica Seafood.  But you can find coho or sockeye for $13 or so per pound at Costco or sometimes at Whole Foods.  Sustainable, delicious, kosher and affordable.  More salmon, more!

The only problem, then, is to avoid WSF– Wild Salmon Fatigue.   I don't suffer from it, but my kids, over the years, surely have.  There are worse problems in life, but this one is solvable: switch up the recipes and techniques.  

This week I discovered a new technique.  At the new Venice restaurant Saltair they poach salmon in olive oil.  Saltair  by the way, is the best new restaurant I've been to, and far exceeds Sun of a Gun, Hungry Cat, and other perhaps more chic seafood places.  Their grilled whole striped bass is simply a superb meal,  crispy skin,  fragrant flesh, sense memories of an Italian outdoor beachside lunch.  

The sockeye and coho are especially good for olive oil poaching as they are lean fish, and the oil adds to their richness.  Serve simply with lemon and you have an simple, fancy dinner.  At Saltair they accompany the salmon with fried artichokes, similar to the ones in Rome's Jewish Ghetto.  You would think oil-poached salmon with fried artichokes would be too much oil.  It's not.

I served mine with a timbale of kale and potato topped with goat yogurt and Turkish marash pepper.  The cool, tart yogurt is a nice balance to the oil in the dish.

To poach in olive oil, you'll need a thermometer to help you keep the temperature at a just-bubbling 180 degrees.  Otherwise, all you need is good quality olive oil.   

And wild salmon.

[RECIPE] Olive Oil-Poached Salmon

Adapted from “Salt to Taste” by Marco Canora (Rodale)

Time: About 40 minutes

10 sprigs fresh thyme

4 fresh bay leaves or 1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed

About 3 cups olive oil, more to cover fish

1 1/2 – 2 pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

2 lemons, one cut into wedges for garnish

Salt and black pepper to taste

Minced parsley, chives or another fresh herb, for garnish.

1. Combine thyme, rosemary, garlic and oil in a pot just wide enough to hold fish in a single layer without touching. (When fish is added, oil should cover it, so it is better to use more oil than not enough.) Peel 1 lemon, using a vegetable peeler to remove yellow part only, in strips. Add peel to oil. Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Fit skillet with a deep-frying thermometer and heat oil to 180 degrees over medium-low heat. Reduce heat and monitor temperature, adjusting until temperature is a stable 180, with small bubbles occasionally rising to surface.

3. When temperature is stable, add fish. Oil temperature will drop, so raise heat slightly (never above medium-low) just until it reaches 180 again; then reduce.

4. Cook fish 13 to 15 minutes, until top is completely opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels, let drain. Place on serving platter, sprinkle with herbs, and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

4 servings