Wild Alaskan Salmon Poached In Vinho Verde with Garlic Scapes

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Credits: Craig Thiebaud
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When you have a beautiful piece of fish, you really don’t need to do a whole lot to it.  Rather, restraint is really the rule of the day so that the subtle flavors really shine.  As such, poaching is a great way to cook a special piece of fish.  There’s no browning, crisping the skin, etc.  It’s just a very simple and fairly quick way to prepare the fish, imparting slight flavors from the poaching liquid but really still keeping things simple.  Here, I chose to poach the salmon in a Vinho Verde and I chose it for a couple of reasons.  First, this type of Portuguese wine is relatively inexpensive, which makes it a great choice to use as a cooking wine.  Secondly, it is a young wine that doesn’t have too much complexity in terms of taste.  It just has a nice straight forward taste that has nice acidity.  It’s easy to drink and, when cooking it adds just enough flavor to a dish without completely overpowering the dish. 

Garlic scapes, also called garlic shoots, are pretty great.  They look interesting in that they are bright green and have a curly shape.  They possess a garlic flavor that I think is slightly less dramatic than regular garlic cloves.  Scapes can be found right around this time and for a few more weeks moving forward at farmer’s markets and certain specialty stores.  Here, I kept them whole but you can chop them up as finely or as coarsely as you like and you use them just as you would a regular clove of garlic.  Since they are only available for a few weeks, if you find them, I’d suggest stocking up…they freeze pretty well!

Ingredients:

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1 Large fillet of Alaskan Salmon (Alaskan King Salmon is pictured)

1-2 Bottles Vinho Verde

Water as necessary

4 Fresh bay leaves

5 Whole black peppercorns

10 Coriander seeds

1 Clove

4-5 Scapes (left whole or chopped)

Flaky sea salt for finishing

Instructions:

  • Pour Vinho Verde into a large pan or poaching pan.  Place the fish fillet in the wine to see if the wine covers the fillet.  If so, remove the fillet.  If you feel you need a lot more liquid to cover the fish, use another bottle of the Vinho Verde.  If, you feel you need just a little bit, add water (filtered would be best) as necessary to cover the fish.  Remove the fish from the liquid and set aside.
  • Turn on the heat to medium and allow the liquid to slowly heat up.  Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and scapes to the liquid while it is heating up. 
  • When the liquid begins to just start creating bubbles, carefully add the fish to the pan being careful to avoid splashing the wine as it will catch on fire if you are using a gas flame. 
  • Once the fish is in the liquid, cook for 7 minutes (time it).  At that point, check the fish for doneness.  If the liquid begins to heat up to the point of bubbling again, reduce the heat.  The fish should be slowly cooked in liquid rather than boiled.  If you are cooking a smaller fillet, your fish may be done.  If so remove it from the liquid (carefully again).  If not, cook another 3-5 minutes.  (I cooked mine a total of 10 minutes which yielded a nice medium rare interior.  Cook yours longer as necessary if you prefer your fish cooked completely through). 
  • Once the fish is finished cooking, carefully remove the fillet(s) and place on a platter.  Scrape off any peppercorns, seeds, etc. that may be stuck to the fish.  Remove the scapes from the cooking liquid and place on the platter on and around the fillets.
  • Carefully sprinkle just a touch of good flaky sea salt over the fish fillets to finish.

Serve the fish while hot/warm.  I would suggest pairing the poached fish with simple wilted greens seasoned simply with salt and pepper.  

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