Guess who’s coming to dinner?
Cold poached salmon for emergencies. Or every day.
A friend of mine recently called in a panic. It seems her fiancé had run into an old girlfriend from whom he parted on amicable terms and had – wait for it now – invited her to have dinner. At their apartment!
Gentlemen, just in case you’re wondering what the problem is here, let me enlighten you: We may say this kind of situation is just fine, and occasionally we may even mean it (if your ex has gained 100 pounds or married George Clooney, though it’s probably too much to hope that she’s done both), but as a general rule it is not okay, especially if she (or he) is still single. If you must consort with former flames, at least have the decency to book an expensive restaurant and suggest that your life partner spend some quality time at Bloomingdales accompanied by your Visa and warmed by the glow of your effusive apologies and genuine remorse. Failing that, you’d best offer to cook or be willing to order takeout from 21 (think Grace Kelly in Rear Window).
As none of the above had gone down, I suggested the following to the soon-to-be Mrs. Deadbeat. “Turn that frown upside down and look upon it as an opportunity to shine.” Yeah, sure I did. What I really advised was to pull out the big guns: Manolos and a black dress, expensive wines and the easiest menu possible. Then I offered to let her borrow my big diamond earrings, the ones I got after Mr. Slattern invited HIS old flame to dinner many years ago – on a work night. It was then that I developed this life saver: cold poached salmon with yogurt dill sauce, and it worked a treat for my pal too.
Though you’re going to screech, hear me out. The best way to poach salmon is in the microwave for about two to four minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet and whether you like it rare or cooked through. Oh yes, I said in the wave. It’s so easy and it yields perfect results with minimum fuss. Here’s how:
- Take a large salmon fillet (NOT A STEAK, but a nice long fillet). Run your clean finger over top to make sure there are no bones (in your portion at least). Slice it into portions (6 to 8 ounces per person). If you go to a fish market, have them do it for you. It’s one less goddamned thing to deal with.
- Place two fillets in a microwave safe dish with a lid (pyrex is best). If you don’t have a lid, you can cover the dish with plastic wrap. I know cooking in batches is a bit of a pain, but I think you get a better, more uniform result if you nuke the fillets individually or two at a time. Let’s say we’ll do two at a time.
- Sprinkle the fillets with lemon juice (about a quarter of a lemon per fillet), white wine (about a tablespoon per fillet), pepper, salt (optional), and fresh dill (snip it with scissors). Some people dot butter on the fish, but that’s just too much for me as the fish is quite rich, but if you like it that way, have at it.
- Cover the dish tightly and nuke ‘em up. Check after two minutes and cook in one minute intervals until they’re done as you like. I prefer salmon cooked through, which can take as long as five minutes, again depending on the thickness of the fish and the power of your microwave.
Once the fillets are cooked, drain the liquid, let them cool, and place them loosely covered in a cool dish or plate on the counter, NOT IN THE FRIDGE. This ruins the flavor and as long as you eat the fish within a couple of hours, and it’s not stinking hot in your kitchen, it’s fine. Serve the cold poached salmon with yogurt dill sauce or one of the alternates below.
Make yogurt dill sauce by mixing:
- ½ C full fat Greek yogurt (2% if you prefer, but not fat free)
- 2 T sour cream
- 1 clove minced garlic
- juice of ½ a lemon
- 2 T fresh dill
- salt and pepper to taste
Alternatively, you can skip the dill and add a couple of teaspoons of horseradish or a teaspoon of wasabi paste for a spicier sauce. On occasion, I have made all three.
Usually I throw a few russet potatoes in the oven (400 for about an hour, NOT wrapped in foil) and toss a salad with this. Cold asparagus is also nice, but remember that the little skinny stalks are generally not as flavorful as the big fat ones.