This is my variation on Chef Eric Ripert’s Barely Cooked Salmon with Leeks and Red Wine Butter Sauce. Ripert’s original recipe for salmon poached this way is amazing. I call it sexy salmon.
Best of all, it is an incredibly sophisticated dish for something so easy to prepare. This is why I used to recommend Ripert’s recipe when someone would ask me what’s a great date night fish dish. However, over the years, I’ve tweaked the recipe to make it an even more romantic dinner dish – the kind that almost guarantees a night of passion. This is my unforgettable sexy salmon recipe.
What is “barely” poached salmon?
As I mentioned in my introduction, this wild salmon recipe is a variation on something Chef Ripert calls barely poached salmon. That’s because the technique used to cook the fish requires poaching only one side of the fillet. The other side is served almost raw. The effect creates one fillet with two different textures and temperatures in the same bite, heightening the sensuality of this easy salmon recipe.
Tips for poaching salmon
If you’ve never poached salmon before, here’s what normally happens. You place the salmon fillets in the poaching liquid in a skillet, almost or completely submerged. You cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and the water bath gently cooks the fish.
But in this recipe, you poach salmon fillets only partially submerged, without a lid, so that only the bottom side fully cooks.
So how does my recipe differ from Ripert’s original poached salmon recipe? I embrace Ripert’s technique but I make my sauce with the gently romantic, more subtle flavor of rosé wine. I also reduce the butter because I want your body in tip-top condition for a night of passion.
What kind of salmon should you use for this recipe?
I recommend using wild salmon for this sensual fish dish. Because I live in California, I normally use Pacific salmon. And as I noted in the recipe, I like to use Alaskan King salmon when it is available.
You can use farmed salmon if that is your only choice. But once you’ve tried wild salmon, you’re going to understand why it’s worth it to seek the wild-caught fish. King salmon is known for its remarkably intense, almost red color. If you saw a farmed salmon fillet side by side with King salmon, also called Chinook salmon, you’d swear it isn’t the same fish! Not only is King more beautiful, but it also offers more intensity of flavor – but not a “fishy” flavor. It is more like it has greater essence of the ocean.
Lastly, did you know that wild-caught salmon has more nutrition than farmed salmon? A serving of wild salmon has about half the calories and fat of farmed salmon yet it contains more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than you’ll get from eating the same serving of farmed salmon. If my hard sell on the incredible flavor of Chinook salmon didn’t convince you, surely these nutrition facts will give you the urge to start shopping for wild fish.
What to serve with poached salmon
Ripert serves his salmon over leeks cooked in butter. I love the preparation but I’ve found a lot of people don’t appreciate leeks. So I often serve this delicate and sensual, barely cooked salmon over my Roasted Cauliflower Puree with Shallots. (The flavor is like a light and airy version of mashed potatoes with just a hint of shallot.) Of course, a more traditional potato puree is also a solid – although heavier – choice.
Tips for picking a wine to make a wine sauce for salmon
You might be wondering what kind of rosé wine to use for your rosé wine sauce. I always recommend cooking with the wine you’re going to drink. For this recipe, that’s only one-half cup, a small amount to spare to make a memorable fish dish.
And keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a splurge wine, just something tasty. It can be something affordable like this Rosé of Sangiovese. Just make sure that the wine is something you enjoy drinking and a rosé wine you want with pair with salmon.
Ripert flavors his dish with tarragon. I love tarragon but I’ve found that when you use rosé wine as opposed to red wine in the sauce, the flavor of tarragon tends to overpower the delicacy of the wine sauce. If you love tarragon, you’ll appreciate it. But if that’s not the flavor you’re going for, skip the tarragon and instead garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chives.
If you’re making sexy salmon fillets for two
The recipe serves four but if I’m making dinner for two, I poach two fillets and save half the sauce for another night. (You know I love leftovers!)
Poached Wild Salmon with Rosé Wine Sauce
- ½ cup rosé wine
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 4 sprigs tarragon (optional)*
- 4 tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 4 6-oz skinless wild salmon fillets (I use Alaskan King salmon when available)
- sea salt
- 1 tsp sliced tarragon or chives
- cracked black pepper and coarse salt
- Combine the rosé wine, red wine vinegar, chopped shallot and tarragon (if using). Bring the wine to a boil and reduce the mixture to about 5 tablespoons.
- Set aside.
- To make the salmon, put about ½ cup of water in a large sauté pan (just enough to cover the surface).
- Season the water with salt and bring to simmer over medium heat.
- Season the salmon on both sides with salt and black pepper.
- Place the salmon in the pan; cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, until the top of the fish is just warm to the touch (about 5-7 minutes).
- While the salmon is cooking, finish the red wine butter sauce by whisking in the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time over low heat. Whisk until each tablespoon is fully emulsified before adding the next.
- Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper while continuing to whisk.
- Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and keep warm.
- Remove the salmon from the pan and drain each fillet on a paper towel.
- Plate the salmon and sprinkle with either tarragon or chives, (see note). Sprinkle a line of ground black pepper and coarse salt over each fillet.
- Spoon sauce around and serve immediately.
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