Monday, September 1, 2014

Poached salmon with lemon and egg caper sauce

Poached Salmon with lemon and egg caper sauce and freekeh tabbouleh. Photos by Steve Shanahan
First published Canberra Times 27 August 2014.
As the frozen veil slowly lifts from Canberra and we enter thaw mode, its time to ditch the meaty, one pot wonders and embrace lighter acidic flavours. Don’t get me wrong - there is a place for the meaty one-pots, but I need a rest from cheek, shank and hinds for a while …… at least until next week. So I opt for moist and succulent poached salmon.

Recently I’ve been reading up on the cultivation of capers, and I am quite captivated by these feisty little buds that grow wild on hillsides throughout the Middle East, Turkey and parts of Asia. Their pickled acidity and brinyness adds a punch to fish dishes and provides a perfect match to this salmon dish. I prefer the bottled capers in salt, rather than the ones in brine as they can tend to be mushy. These can be found in supermarkets or delis.

As it happens, I’ve been lucky enough to score a bucket of juicy, sweet lemons from my sister and some fresh chook eggs from a good friend. This generosity of produce then prompted a forage to Fishco Fyshwick for wild salmon and a pile of fishheads to make a rich, fish stock. This is a bit of extra effort, but I want the flavours to shine through. 

I prepare the fish stock the day before I need it and leave it to reduce, simmering away on the stove for a few hours to extract maximum flavour. The secret to this stock is the roasting of the fish and vegetables first. The cooking smells coming from the kitchen are absolutely sublime as I am swept away on a nut-buttery seafood drift.  If I’d had any reservations about the input needed to make the fish stock as part of this recipe, they were quickly snuffed out. The sauce in this dish only requires one cup of stock, but the extra will keep for about a month in the freezer or for a few days in the fridge. If time is short, use a good quality, store bought fish stock.

To cut through the richness of the salmon, I added a freekeh tabbouleh salad and follow it up with the French classic tarte au citron, featuring both the fresh lemons and delicious chook eggs.

The following quantities serve 6 people.

Rich Fish Stock
Makes about 8 cups

2 onions
4 celery stalks
4 carrots
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Bones and heads of 3 or 4 fish
6 whole peppercorns
1 bottle of dry white wine
4 each sprigs of parsley and thyme
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Coarsely chop the onions, carrots and celery. Melt the butter in a large roasting pan and add the vegetables and fish pieces. Roast for 30 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables and fish pieces to a large stockpot and add three and half litres of water, the wine, peppercorns, herbs, bay leaf and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over a medium heat and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for approximately two to three hours. The stock should reduce by half.

Strain the liquid and reserve and discard all of the solids.

Poached Salmon

1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 lemon, sliced thinly with skin on
2 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
2 kilogram piece of centre-cut wild salmon
sprigs of fresh dill and parsley
2 cups of dry white wine

Place carrot, celery, onion, lemon slices, bay leaves and pepper corns into a fish poacher or deep roasting pan large enough to take the fish and vegetables. Rub the salmon with salt and sit on top of the vegetables in the pan. Add the dill, parsley, wine and enough water to just cover the fish.

Place the pan over two hot plates or large burner and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the salmon is just opaque and check for doneness to your liking by separating the flakes gently with a knife. This will take about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the salmon rest in the poaching liquid for ten minutes, then transfer to a board and peel off the skin on the underside of the fish and discard. It will come away easily. Also remove any dark flesh if you prefer.

Carefully lift the salmon onto a platter and remove any bones. Serve warm with the egg caper sauce and freekeh tabbouleh.

Egg Caper Sauce
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp flour
1 cup Rich Fish Stock
½ cup of heavy cream
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
salt and white pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning. This should take about two minutes.

Gradually whisk in the Rich Fish Stock, then the cream. Bring to a simmer, cook for about one minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.

Stir in the hard-boiled eggs and capers. Season to taste and keep warm over a very low heat until ready to serve over the salmon.

Freekeh Tabbouleh
5 tbsp of freekeh, washed
60g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
2 pink shallots, finely chopped
½ medium white onion
1 tsp of kosher salt
½ tsp ground allspice
300g of cocktail tomatoes, finely chopped and drained of juice
3 cups of minced flat leaf parsley
½ cup of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp lemon juice

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, shallots, stirring to cook for about five minutes. Add the washed and drained freekeh stirring to coat with the butter. Add 230 millilitres of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until the freekeh is soft, this should take about ten minutes. Drain the freekeh and vegetables in a colander.

Place the cooked freekeh into a medium sized bowl and add the chopped onion, salt to taste and the allspice. Then add the tomatoes, parsley, mint, oil and lemon juice. Stir to combine and further season to taste. Serve as a side to the poached salmon.