Saturday, November 14, 2009

Olive Oil Poached Salmon

Poaching is not usually my cooking mode of choice, and so I'm not very experienced in doing it. Poaching in oil, I've never done ... until now. I don't know what came over me, but I had a vision of olive oil, capers, lemon, and fish, and I said to myself, "I have to do this!" And I'm glad I did!

Now, the olive oil component is certainly not cheap, but the oil can be reused for the same application mutliple times, so consider that the oil's expense is only partly attributable to this meal. So, say a bottle of good, organic olive oil on sale goes for $11, which is what I usually pay. If you use this oil four times, then the cost for this meal is less than $3 (which is less than $1 per serving) ... not too bad. And who's to say you'll only use the oil four times? You might get more out of it!

And what of the health component? Am I just going to break all the rules of this blog (chuck health and cheap ... maybe we'll keep the green part)? The oil that is consumed by this recipe is actually quite minimal. Measure your oil before and after cooking, and you'll see what I mean. Besides, fat is not our enemy, particularly the kind of fat in olive oil (monounsaturated), which has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL). In fact, extra virgin olive oil, which is generally cold-pressed, is as close to a whole food as you can get without eating raw olives (does anyone do that?); it is not heated, not refined, and since it is from the first press of the olives, it contains the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals of any other type of olive oil. Have some antioxidants with your fat and flavor, why don't you?

Given its non-refinement, extra virgin olive oil is a very poor oil to use in high heat cooking, because it has a low smoking point, but it's excellent in poaching, which is a fairly low heat, simmering application. And it is not simply used as a heat conductor either. Yes, it does function to impart heat, but more importantly, it imparts some serious flavor.

So, forget your dieting rules about avoiding cooking in oil, and enjoy a meal full of healthy fats and lots of deliciousness!

Olive Oil Poached Salmon
4 fillets of wild, Alaskan salmon (4-6 oz. each), skinned
3-4 cups of extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, sliced into rounds
several sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup capers
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt to taste (capers are salty, so go easy)
white pepper to taste

Pour olive oil into a stainless steel skillet to the depth of the salmon's thickness (about 2 inches). Heat the oil over medium heat until it is quite warm, but not hot (you should still be able to touch the oil without being in excruciating pain). Lower the heat to medium low to keep it at a simmer. Do not allow the oil to boil.

Add half the lemon slices and the sprigs of thyme to the pan. Lay the fish fillets (in batches, if necessary) to the pan. The fish should be fully submerged in the oil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan, and allow excess oil to drain on a cooling rack.

In a small bowl, combine the capers, parsley, salt, white pepper and 4 Tbsps of the simmering oil. Serve the fish topped with the a slice of lemon and drizzled with the caper mixture. I served this with a side of wild rice with wilted seasonal greens.

Serves 4.

Tip: To reuse the oil, filter it through cheesecloth and store in a glass bottle (the original bottle is fine) in the refrigerator. Remove the oil from the fridge about an hour before you plan to use it to allow the oil to re-liquify.

Photo of olive branch from Wikipedia (

No comments: