Poached salmon with sauce beurre blanc and couscous


I was chatting with some friends over the weekend about how the very worst part of cooking fish is the smell. Hands down. In my book, fish is by far the easiest protein to cook because you can, quite literally, watch it cook all the way through in a way you can't with meat or poultry.

So, how do you go about cooking fish without marinating your entire home, too? It starts with the cooking method. Poaching, which doesn't irritate or flair up scent in the same way an aggressive sear does, is a way to slowly and mildly cook fish. Choosing a non-fishy smelling fish – like salmon, black cod or arctic char – will also save you a scent-induced migraine.

A light, but filling side like couscous – the food so nice they named it twice – complements the fresh fish. Beurre blanc, a quite traditional French white wine sauce, is silky, rich and essentially fool-proof to prepare, and provides an excellent vehicle to tie together an elegant summer dish.

This is enough for a romantic or platonic meal for two.

What to know

Beurre blanc is a standard French sauce – though not one of the mother sauces. It, like a hollandaise, utilizes a reaction between dairy and acid (lemon or vinegar chiefly) in order to create a smooth, but thick whipped sauce. While this beurre blanc is not the most traditional preparation, it is amazingly fool-proof. Dropping cold butter a tablespoon at a time, while constantly whisking, will create a whipped beurre blanc every time.

It's important to not leave the sauce in a spot that's hot, like on a stove, or a place that's too cold, like a cool stone counter top, because the sauce can separate. I like to place my beurre blanc adjacent to or near, but not on, a burner that was once lit.

Poached salmon

What you need

1 lb salmon, cut into two fillets, about 1 inch thick

1/2 large shallot, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cups chicken stock

Salt, to taste

How to do it

Season salmon fillets with salt and set aside.

In a large sautoir - a pan with 3-inch tall sides - or tall pot, add olive oil, chopped shallots and chicken stock and bring stove to high heat. Bring stock to a simmer. 

Once stock reaches a simmer, add salmon fillets to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with a lid or piece of foil, cook the salmon at a simmer for 6-7 minutes.

Serve immediately over a bed of cous cous and with a few spoonfuls of sauce beurre blanc. Leftovers should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Shred salmon and serve over salad; mix into an omelet; or add into couscous, like a stir fry, with vegetables.

Beurre blanc

What you need

1/2 large shallot, finely chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup white wine

1 stick salted butter, cold and sliced into tablespoons

1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

How to do it

In a small sauce pan, boil chopped shallots, vinegar and wine until about 2 tablespoons of liquid remain, about 10, over high heat.

Turn off heat, and whisk in butter one tablespoon at a time.

Remove saucepan from heat – place on an adjacent not-hot burner so the sauce remains warm – and add parsley and salt, if needed. 

Serve immediately.

For leftovers, reheat slowly over low heat; store in a sealed container for us to a week.

Pearl couscous

What you need

1 cup pearl couscous

1 1/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 tsp salt

How to do it

In a small sauce pan, bring salt and chicken stock to a boil over high heat.

Add couscous and reduce to a simmer, using a lid to cover the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until all stock is absorbed.

Allow couscous to sit 3-4 minutes before using a fork to fluff, meaning to lightly separate the grains and release excess moisture by stirring around the couscous.

Serve immediately. For leftovers, toss couscous with a bit of olive oil and place in sealed container; store in the fridge for up to a week.