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Jul 10, 2007 05:56 PM

Tips, recipes for olive oil-poached salmon?

Cooking for Hubby's bday this Saturday and as always he's requested a salmon-centric menu. For the entree I had the idea of poaching salmon in olive oil because a) I'm bored of grilled or pan-seared salmon and b) poached salmon in water or broth always tasted bland to me.

Only I've never poached salmon (or anything) in any kind of fat or oil. Can someone here give me any direct experience on this?

Searching the board I found a mention of someone who made oil-poached tuna and said it was gross. Ut-oh.

But someone recommended an olive-oil roasted salmon recipe here:
which is close to poaching (gently warm over medium heat for 3 minutes per side in oil that comes halfway up the salmon fillet).

I also found lots of recipes online, including one by Charlie Trotter here
which is poached submerged in 130F herbed oil for 10-12 minutes.

And this Epicurious one here:
which is poached in 150F oil for 8-10 minutes.

So lots of methods to choose from. Submerge in oil, or halfway up? How many minutes or to what internal temperature for just barely done salmon? When it's done, does the salmon turn a pretty golden hue, or a pallid pink, or what?

And will it make my whole house smelly with oily salmon smell? (the biggest question)

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  1. Hey Alice! I hope you have a great birthday weekend.

    I fixed a WONDERFUL chardonnay-poached salmon not too long ago (
    )if you decide to try a different route with your fish... I'm sorry I cannot offer help on the poaching in oil.

    However --- I did pan-fry salmon in olive oil on the stove once and it completely smoked up the house --- for days. Although it tasted pretty good, I threw away the recipe immediately. That smell was disgusting. *ick*

    1. I've never oil-poached fish (although I've been tempted), but recently I followed a recipe I had saved from the LATimes about slow-cooked salmon, which yielded one of the most moist pieces of fish I've had - the texture was as though it was raw, but not (if that makes sense). Best part - no fishy-smelling kitchen!

      Roughly, the recipe is as follows:

      Make sure your salmon is at room temperature, and season with some sea salt (about 1/4 tsp for a 5-6 ounce filet). Heat your oven to 225 degrees. Brush olive oil over the base of the pan you're going to use, and layer thinly sliced onion over the bottom (I didn't have any onions at home, so used an orange, which worked well). Brush the salmon with about 1 tsp of olive oil, and place skin side down on the onions. Bake until done to your taste - I let it go for about 25 minutes, and it was just this side of raw. (Guidelines in the recipe: 10 for almost raw, cooked through = 30 minutes.) Remove from oven, discard onions, and serve with some chopped fines herbes sprinkled atop (or with whatever you choose to serve it).

      5 Replies
      1. re: jacinthe

        I was going to suggest something similar to this. I used slices of lemon and onion and did it at 250. It comes out soft and melty and really nice. I'd prefer this to olive oil poaching only because that seems like a waste of olive oil!

        I've also done a white wine poach, which was good, but not as melty as the oven roasting.

        BTW, pan frying will give you a smelly kitchen. Oven roasting won't (even at high oven temps).

        1. re: jacinthe

          This is done with a lid on the pan or no?

          Sounds wonderful.

          1. re: krissywats

            I slow-roast mine uncovered. For just the two of us, I just do it in the toaster oven on the sheet tray covered w/ foil on the bottom.

          2. re: jacinthe

            Yes, slow-cooked in the oven is a nice alternative. Charlie Trotter uses this method around the same temp. and I think it goes for about 15-20 min. I usually just do it plain w/o any onions or seasonings besides S&P. Maybe a little olive oil. Doesn't smell up the house.

            What about grilling outside on a cedar plank? We tried this recently and loved it. We did a whole side, but for two, you can just put some fillets on a small plank custom cut at your lumberyard. Plus, no lingering salmon smells in the house.

            1. re: jacinthe

              Jacinthe- just made this recipe tonight and it was wonderful! I just found my new way to cook salmon. Been searching for a way to keep it moist, not overcooked on the ends and still really rare in the middle, but not raw. And this is it! I cooked a whole side, so took about 45 minutes and it was just a shade more cooked than I wanted, but still remained perfectly moist. Thanks!

            2. Someone did this on Top Chef last night, and I wondered how it is done and what it does to the flavour.

              1. Paula Wolfert has a recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. I did this quite a while ago and loved it! Don't remember the house smelling up, but that probably wouldn't have bothered me anyway. For one pound salmon:

                Salt the salmon lightly and refrigerate it for an hour or so while you look for something to cook it in that is just large enough to hold the salmon. Any larger and you'll be using a boatload of oil. In this skillet heat 2 1/2 c olive oil, 3 sliced garlic cloves and 1 sprig of thyme until the garlic starts to turn golden. Turn off the heat.

                Discard the thyme and garlic, rinse and pat dry the fish, and heat the oil to 155 degrees. Add the fish to the oil, adding more oil if necessary to keep it covered. I placed a small plate atop the salmon to hold it down, though Paula doesn't mention the need for it. Get the oil to 145 degrees and poach the salmon for 12 minutes. Take the skillet off of the heat. The fish will continue to cook as the oil cools. It is done when it flakes, but it will look very rare. Drain on paper towels and let rest 5 minutes. Serve warm. Or cold.

                Her note says the re-usable oil will last for one week in frig.

                Try it, you'll like it.

                6 Replies
                1. re: mirage

                  I was all set to change my method and try one of the alternatives above until I saw this post, so I'm so glad someone has experience with this! I can't wait to trythis recipe & method (tomorrow). I'm glad you warned me it will look very rare.

                  I just have one question: do you put the lid on while poaching? I'm planning to use a high-sided saucepan, since it will fit my salmon fillet almost exactly, and it has a lid. Oh, another question: while poaching, is the oil bubbling? a little? barely? or what? I don't have an oil/candy thermometer, just a probe thermometer.

                  1. re: Alice Patis

                    No lid.
                    I'm sorry, it was a while ago that I made it and I don't remember the degree of bubble, but I doubt it was much, if at all. I checked the temp with my instant read thermometer.
                    Let me know how it works out for you. And thanks for the reminding me of this recipe.

                  2. re: mirage

                    I made Paula Wolfert's recipe for the first time in the last month or so.

                    I used a thick center-cut filet (farm-raised) and it came out perfect (pic below). Unfortunately, the second time I was having a dinner party and splurged on some wild sockeye salmon which was much too thin. She mentions that it can't really overcook, but somehow I managed it, and totally ruined such a nice piece of fish - it came out bland and without the velvety interior the thicker piece of fish had. I will definitely make it again, though using the right cut next time. I used a thermometer, but it was still tricky to keep the temperature nice and low. I added more oil to completely submerge it, and poached in a small oval Le Creuset.

                    1. re: Rubee

                      Lovely photo, Rubee. Yeah, I should have specified the thickness of the fish. Mine was a center cut as well.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Wow Rubee, your pic is exactly how we like our salmon. Very nice! Funny how farm-raised gave you a better result than wild. Though I guess it was because of the filet thickness. Also, to me the texture of sockeye seems less velvety than king salmon. I used center cut sockeye and my center cut filet is not very thick at all (as you can see from the photo in my report below).

                        1. re: Alice Patis

                          Yes, I was hoping to find a thick filet of king salmon for the dinner party, but the smaller sockeye salmon was all I could find - yours looks a bit thicker (and more delicious) than my failure.

                          And you're pictures are mouth-watering. Now I'm hungry and have to go make dinner!

                    2. The report-

                      Overall it was a success (esp given this was my first time), but we both thought it didn’t taste much different than poaching in a liquid. It sure did not smell up the kitchen & house AT ALL, whereas in the past poaching will make the house smell a little, so I’m happy in that respect.

                      I infused the oil with garlic & rosemary since I didn’t have fresh thyme. Photo of oil, garlic & rosemary at the start:

                      I kept worrying about burning the garlic so it took a very long time on super-low to get the garlic golden (and I think I should’ve kept the garlic in longer to get more golden). Oil tasted heavenly at that point. I used a probe thermometer to track the oil temperature during poaching (not sure if that’s ok), and the oil was more like 190 before I added the salmon (but the probe was touching the pan). The thick part of the fillet was above the oil, so I added more oil. I added almost a cup (well maybe ¾ cup) and it was still sticking above the oil. I felt so wasteful so I let it be and figured we like salmon partly rare anyway. Photo of salmon poaching, parts of it starting to cook, no bubbles in the oil:

                      After about 5 minutes, the thin part of the fillet had turned a pale pink (the color of liquid-poached salmon, not looking like rare salmon at all) but the top (sticking above the oil) was still fleshy looking. The oil temp holding around 143. Photo:

                      At this point I was worried I’d get dry salmon in the thinner half and raw fleshy salmon in the thicker half, and I was getting impatient, so I turned up the heat very slightly and micro bubbles started surfacing. Then little oozes of white goop started coming out of the fillet from all sorts of places. I’ve had this happen with liquid-poached salmon but I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to happen with oil-poached. I then resorted to spooning the oil over the thick part so it would atleast not look fleshy at the surface.

                      When the fleshy surface started to turn pale pink and the probe inside the thick part of the salmon read 139, I turned off the heat. While plating my side dish, the salmon continued to cook considerably so that by the time I lifted it out, it was cooked all the way through to done. So much for aiming for rare in the middle. It sat on some paper towels while I wiped the ungainly white goop off the surface. I cut the fillet into 2 and served myself the small piece. Photo of my plate:

                      And slideshow of the full dinner if you’re curious to see that:
                      (click on the ‘i’ in the middle of the photo to turn on captions)

                      I think if I had submerged the salmon completely in oil, and then kept it at the ultra low 145 temp as instructed, with no or very few microbubbles in the oil, I could’ve achieved a med-rare salmon. Even cooked to done it was still good, not dry-tasting. We could not taste the garlic or rosemary (even when we tried it without the accompanying pesto), so it might not be worth it to infuse the oil. That was even with 4 fat cloves of garlic. The garlic chips were super yummy though!

                      Next question… what do I do with 2+ cups of salmon-flavored EVOO filtered & sitting in the fridge??

                      Barring any ideas, hubby will resort to using it instead of dipping oil for bread – eeewwww!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Alice Patis

                        Slide show is absolutely beautiful, now I am interested in the summer veg timbale - your own creation or a recipe found? Would you mind sharing?

                        1. re: itryalot

                          The summer veg timbale was my creation, and I only named it that since I don’t know what else to call a stack of veggies. I used stuff I had on hand/made in advance and you could use whatever you want. Starting from the top going down mine was:

                          Caramelized onions (made last weekend in the slow cooker)
                          Oven-dried tomatoes (made a couple weeks ago), which I heated/re-‘hydrated’ in olive oil
                          Corn blanched or microwaved for 1 minute then kernels cut off the cob, sauted in a bit of olive oil then added to a thickened white sauce (roux+half & half+wine) to make the corn not fall apart in the timbale
                          Broccoli florets, blanched & chopped (I just microwaved some frozen ones)
                          The sauce is a creation I’m almost embarassed to share, it sounds kind of weird. To chicken broth, olive oil and lemon juice, I added about ¼ tsp. of various spices I wanted to use up from my cabinet: cumin, ground coriander, sumac and a smidgen of tandoori spice mix which turns everything bright red (kind of ick so I use very judiciously). With salt pepper and I think a very small amount of mustard to make it emulsify.

                          I totally failed the school of stacked veggie assembly and poured the sauce over the plated timbale, after which I realized the sauce acts like lava and the mountain will come falling down. So if you sauce a timbale, pour the sauce on the plate beside the timbale.

                          Oh I just looked at the photo again and remembered I accidentally spooned a bit of basil pesto on top before I stopped & remembered the pesto's for the salmon. See how senile I get when in the frenzied rush of getting everything plated. So ignore the dark blackish green stuff on top.

                        2. re: Alice Patis

                          Very interesting! I have such a hard time understanding how the fish isn't just completely oil soaked on such a low temp. But it sounds like it wasn't. Would you do it again? Was it good enough to give it another go?

                          With the oil - I think I heard you can heat it up and throw in a potato to rid it of the flavors? Or am I confusing that with getting too much heat out of a stew.....

                          1. re: krissywats

                            Yes, it was good enough that I'd give it another go (and I want to improve my technique to get it med-rare and no white goop, as mirage has done) except that I'm not a salmon fan so I really only cook salmon for hubby. I'm tempted to reuse that very same oil...hmm there's a use for it.

                          2. re: Alice Patis

                            I placed a very small plate on the salmon to hold it submerged and kept the temperature of the oil at 145 the whole time - no white goop at all. The garlic flavor was very very subtle, but there. I hope someone comes up with a wonderful suggestion for the oil!

                            1. re: mirage

                              I'm pretty sure the white goop is fat from the fish--full of Omega 3s and very healthy for you, if not the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the dish. I wouldn't get rid of it, at any rate.