Always start with the dessert.
That’s what someone once told me about dinner. Well, not exactly the eating part. She meant the planning part. A colleague told me that when she planned her dinner party menus she always works back from dessert.
I don’t do that myself, but last week I did write about the dessert I was going to serve this past weekend for a dinner party I was having, so it was sort of the same.
Now I can tell you about the main course, which was Poached Salmon. Nothing modern here: an old-fashioned but well-loved entree that never goes out of style. So many benefits on top of the fact that it is so delicious.
First, Poached Salmon looks elegant and needs little in the way of “professional” type garnishing. I’m no culinary artist, so I dressed the dish up with lettuce, cut up cucumbers, tomatoes, lemons and limes, plus a sprig of dill in the center. It’s supposed to look like a plant coming out of a flower pot (created with three small slivers of tomato) and a bit of sunshine (piece of lemon).
Second, you can make it all in advance — in fact you have to in order for the texture to be right and the fish to be chilled properly. That means all you have to do is get it out of the fridge when you sit down to dinner.
Third, it’s healthier than a whole lot of other things you can (and I have) served. I even modernized my recipe for dill sauce, using yogurt instead of dairy sour cream so as to cut down on the fat.
Next time you need a lovely, make-ahead, healthy entree for company dinner, think of this one:
Poached Salmon with Dill Sauce
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 leeks, dark green parts discarded, washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
4 quarts water
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 lemon, cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
salt to taste
2-1/2 pound chunk salmon
Place the carrots, leeks and onions in a large soup pot. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Pour in the wine and wine vinegar. Add the lemon quarters, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, peppercorns and some salt and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Strain this mixture (court bouillon) into a large bowl. Place the fish, skin down, on a rack in a deep pan (such as a roasting pan). Pour in the court bouillon. Be sure the entire fish is covered. Add the cooking vegetables if necessary to bring the liquid up to the proper depth. Place the pan on a cooktop. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. Cover the pan. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 110-112 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the salmon cool in the liquid. Refrigerate the salmon (in the pan, still covered by the liquid) until cold. Carefully remove the salmon to a serving dish. Garnish with fresh produce such as lettuce, slices of tomato and/or cucumber, plus lemon and/or lime segments. Add a sprig of dill or parsley if desired, as garnish. Serve with Dill Sauce. Makes 6 servings
1 medium cucumber
1/2 cup Greek style plain yogurt or dairy sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Peel the cucumber, slice it in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds. Grate the cucumber and place it in a strainer. Press down to extract as much liquid as possible. Place the cucumber in a bowl. Add the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, dill and mint. Mix ingredients to blend them thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1-1/4 cups