Well, okay, it’s Christmas Eve Morning, which is an oxymoron that today makes sense. A couple of days ago, Saturday night to be exact, Nettie and I put on a Holiday Party at our house. It was a wonderful evening with dear friends and precious family. We made a big spread, including duck, prime rib, and salmon with all the sides and trimmings. Though we do consult in each others dishes (taste, adjust, and taste again), we tend to specialize in certain recipes that become ours individually.

As the dinner was served and the eating began in earnest, a whisper went through the house…who made the salmon?

Ever bashful, ever humble, I had to confess that I poached the salmon. How, the adoring faces asked? In a chardonnay and juniper berry broth. Huh? Juniper berries? Chardonnay? Yes, I said, it’s simple, honestly. I began to quickly sketch the recipe when a cousin of mine said, “Hey, how ’bout you write it out in your blog for Monday.” Salmon 1

Ever bashful, ever humble, I said okay. So here’s how it goes:

The first step is to create the poaching liquid…the secret to the whole shebang. In a decent sized saucepan, say three quarts, pour in 3 to 4 cups of a good quality chardonnay (good enough to drink or you shouldn’t be cooking with it is my philosophy about wine and cooking). Then add 3 cups of water. Now add the following ingredients to the liquid —

  1. A single stalk of fresh, leafy basil (stalk and leaves).
  2. Four stalks of fresh fennel, the leafier the better.
  3. Three bay leaves.
  4. Ten crushed juniper berries. (“Where the heck do you get them?” my cousin asked. I found them at Whole Foods, and, no, you can’t skip them, they’re critical to this recipe. In fact, throw in fifteen if you feel bold. Crush them with the flat of a knife on a solid surface. These berries are tough little suckers.)
  5. One sliced lemon.
  6. A tablespoon or so of peppercorns.

Bring the whole concoction to a boil in the saucepan and then simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Turn off, remove the basil and fennel and let what is now broth cool completely. This amount of broth will poach about a three pound salmon fillet. When the broth is cooled, get your oven preheated to 350 degrees. Place the fillet in a poaching pan big enough to hold it laid out flat but small enough that the broth just laps at the edges of the salmon. Tightly cover the pan with tinfoil since poaching/roasting pans are typically lid-less and you want to seal in the heat to “steam” or poach the salmon. Gently slide the pan onto the center rack of the oven.

You’re going to cook this for about 20 minutes, but at 10 minutes, baste the salmon with the broth to help keep it moist. The key here is do the basting quickly so that you don’t lose too much of the oven heat or let out too much of the steam from the broth. Re-seal the tinfoil and cook for about another 10 minutes.

I realize I keep saying “about this” and “about that” but that’s because there’s a certain amount of flexibility in any recipe that’s guided by innumerable variables….your oven’s heat accuracy, the consistency and quality of the salmon, the spin of the Earth at your precise location, and how much of the Chardonnay you’ve drunk while cooking.)

So…how do you know when it’s done but not overdone? Here’s what I do. At 20 minutes, I again quickly peel back the tinfoil and with a dinner fork gently try to separate the flesh. If it separates at all, it’s done. Take it out and immediately remove it from the broth or it’ll keep cooking and quickly be overcooked. Let it rest on a platter until it’s cool, then brush it with olive oil and refrigerate overnight. I typically wrap the plate tightly in plastic wrap first and then tinfoil to keep the refrigerator from drying the meat. After all, one of the purposes of refrigeration is to remove moisture from the air.

The next day when you’re ready to serve the salmon, you can dress up the platter with fresh dill and lemon slices. I also make my own salmon sauce, which is a simple mix of mayonnaise, horseradish, minced fresh dill, minced onion, minced dill pickle, fresh lemon juice, and dashes of salt and pepper. The proportions of these various ingredients is up to you and your image of the perfect tartar sauce.

There you have it…holiday poached salmon.

Oh, one last thing…ever bashful, ever humble, I have to admit that if my recipe confuses you, you can google much of this recipe on the web. It’s funny don’t you think that I’m given no credit by Food Network for my spin on their chardonnay poached salmon? Good thing I make a killer martini that’s all my own…recipe to follow one blog day.

P.S. I wish you and yours a holiday season that meets most of your expectations and a New Year that fulfills a fair-sized portion of your goals.


8 Responses to Who Made The Salmon?

  1. Pam G says:

    Your food was FANTASTIC! You and Annette can cook for me anytime. Your are the best host/hostess! Loved your party and felt very welcomed! Happy New Year to both of you!

  2. Sean says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I can’t wait to make it.

    Poached is the most delicious way to eat salmon but it tends to be dry. You cooked yours perfectly–soooo tasty!!

    By the way…where did you buy the salmon filet?


  3. David R says:

    The Duck was amazing too!!

  4. David R says:

    The Duck was amazing!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Killed it with the salmon!

  6. zinny says:

    what a wonderful time had by all!! and yes the salmon was delicious. I loved the duck and the prime rib was superb. But the company was the best!!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Bashful…? I can picture your rosy cheeks!

    What a fantastic party. We had a lovely time and I absolutely loved that salmon. Tre’ yum!


  8. Hi Frank,
    Wondering whether your father ever brought any of his Polish traditions to the Christmas Eve table.


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