Monday, January 16, 2012

Warm Poached Salmon in Red Wine Sauce, served with Lentils

Recipe comes from Barton Seaver's, "For Cod and Country."

I realize the photo for this one is a bit scary and the flavor itself is so unique that it's hard to really capture in words.  Salmon is a hearty fish that becomes somehow delicate in flavor when combined with this light red wine sauce.  The butter and shallots add a warm, buttery note and the overall effect of the dish takes several bites for your palette to really start to get a sense of what's going on.  Mike, who is my biggest critic, absolutely loves this dish.  Served with a side of lentils (which are cheap and super nutritious), Warm Poached Salmon is an excellent hearty meal for the colder fall and winter months.  

A note on the dish from Barton himself:
Cooking salmon in a light red wine brings out the meatiness of the fish.  The trick when cooking with wine is to use a wine that you would want to drink.  Any flaw in the wine straight from the bottle will only be amplified in the final dish.  This recipe calls for about a half bottle, so you can enjoy drinking the rest of it while you are cooking.  I like Beaujolais for this as it has a nice upfront fruitiness, plus its low in alcohol, so you can drink another glass with dinner and not be poached in red wine yourself.  Here I call for two 10-ounce fillet portions, rather than four separate pieces, because it is easier to poach larger pieces of fish.  The cooking can take place slowly, allowing the fish to absorb as much flavor from the broth as possible.

If you have salmon left over, it is great served cold for another meal.

For the Lentils
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane or finely minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups green lentils (French du Puy lentils are the best)... I couldn't find these, so I used standard old lentils
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
4 cups water

For the Salmon
Two 10-ounce portions salmon fillet, preferably pink salmon
2 cups light red wine, such as Beaujolais or Dolcetto
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter

For the Lentils
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  When soft, add the lentils and toss to coat with oil.  Cook for 3 minutes to toast the lentils, then add the paprika.  Stir the paprika into the lentils and add the water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and sett aside off the heat.

Always thoroughly rinse lentils and pick out any bad pieces

For the Salmon
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

In a sauté pan just large enough to fit the fillets in a single layer, heat the wine with the shallot and thyme over medium heat.  Season lightly with salt, keeping in mind that because the wine will be reduced for a sauce later, you shouldn't add too much salt now.  When the wine begins to steam, add the salmon fillets and reduce the heat to medium low.  You want to keep the temperature of the water at about 170 degrees (use and instant-read thermometer to check this).  Poach until the fish is cooked all the way through, about 12 minutes.  Check for doneness by gently flaking apart a small section to see if the color is consistent throughout.

Remove the salmon from the wine and transfer to a plate.  Keep it warm in the oven.  Increase the heat under the wine to medium and reduce until only about 2 tablespoons of liquid remain.  Remove from heat and discard the thyme.  Add the butter and swirl the pan to incorporate it with the wine reduction as it melts.  Spoon the sauce over the fillets and serve immediately with a generous helping of lentils.

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