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Sous Vide Salmon: Keep It Simple

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Posted by johngl

On the evening of May the Fourth, I was reminded by most glorious spousal unit that we needed to prepare something to tote with us over to a friend-packed gathering on the Fifth. I’d, of course, spaced the thing completely and didn’t wish to endure the cold stares of my friends who wouldn’t be amused by my feeble-mindedness. I set to pondering.

Somehow or another, my ponderings led me to a recipe for Citrus Marinated Salmon — a Thomas Keller creation — that I’ve prepared on several occasions for the well-heeled and snooty. This gathering was much more low key: an afternoon assembly of a dozen or so folks that enjoy playing guerrilla bocce in direct sunlight whilst consuming their fair shares of wine.

A little wine for refreshment?

Thinking about the basic flavor elements of that somewhat complex Thomas Keller offering, I decided to keep it simple.

Of course, I needed some fresh salmon. Most glorious spousal unit and I decided that an early trip to Costco would lead to a solution for that and several other of our grocery-shopping needs. I selected a four pound, fully deboned fresh Atlantic salmon.

Fresh Atlantic Salmon

This baby was about 21 inches long and about 1-1/4″ thick and smelled perfectly clean. Not even a hint of fish funk was detected by my overly sensitive olfactory system.

Patting it dry with paper towels, I began the seasoning process by slicing the end off a lime, placing it cut end down upon the fish, and allowing it to glide freely over the entire surface, occasionally giving the lime a squeeze to promote the oozing of juice.

The acidity of the lime juice will turn some of the surface area of the salmon a lighter shade of pink as it “cooks” the flesh. It’s also infusing the fish with it’s inherent limey-ness. I liberally sprinkled on some salt, going heavier over the thicker (amidfish) portions of flesh and lighter over the thinner (aft and keel) portions. I applied some fresh ground black pepper in the same manner.

I gave the raw fish a taste and thought I needed a bit more citrusy goodness to better mimic that in the Keller recipe. Looking around the kitchen, I noticed my several jars of homemade citrus liqueurs. These are simply jars of orange and grapefruit peelings covered in cognac, vodka, or tequila, and allowed to stand for weeks and months. The alcohol becomes infused with the citrus oils which flavors it substantially. If you don’t make your own citrus liqueurs, Cointreau or triple-sec will work, too.

I poured about an ounce of orange-flavored cognac into a bowl and brushed it on the fillet.

Salmon, bagged and "baking"

Here the salmon is bagged and submerged into my sous vide rig. Notice that it was so large, about a three inch section of the tail end is curved up; my sous vide rig only accommodates 18″.

In the Keller recipe, the salmon is poached in 110°F olive oil. In my version, I set the water temp at 120°F.  The salmon equalized to this temperature in about 40 minutes. I transported the salmon in a cooler filled with the very same sous vide water.

Salmon, dill, fresh cucumber, and three sauces

At the party, I displayed the ultra-tender salmon full-length on a platter, accenting it with dill weed and cucumber slices. The three sauces, left to right, are: dill and creme fraiche, basil and horseradish, and basil and garlic aioli. All are super easy to prepare.

Dill and Creme Fraiche: Dill sprigs, chopped, mixed with creme fraiche or sour cream. A spritz of fresh lemon juice gives it an extra little punch. Stirred with a spoon. That’s it.

Basil and Horseradish: Equal parts heavy cream, mayo, and horseradish with chopped fresh basil and a spritz of lemon juice. Teaspoon of soy sauce. Splash of red wine vinegar.  Salt and pepper and a pinch of ginger powder to taste. Pulsed in a mini food processor.

Basil and Garlic Aioli: Chopped garlic clove (large), chopped garlic tops (from my garden), fresh basil (about two tablespoonsful), a third cup of mayo, an anchovy (packed in olive oil), quarter tsp of Worcestershire sauce, pequin powder, and a splash of homemade red wine vinegar. Pulsed in a mini food processor.

The three of these together took no more than a half hour to prepare.

Despite the utter simplicity, or perhaps because of it, the bulk of the salmon was quickly devoured to some rave reviews. Cold stares successfully avoided.

One last note: To our hosts, fellow cooks, and wine suppliers — great friends all — I give my thanks for gatherings such as these as they are a great part of what brings joy and happiness to our lives.

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2 Responses to “Sous Vide Salmon: Keep It Simple”

  1. Biz says:

    I wish I liked salmon – I need to give it another try – I’d be all over the horseradish sauce! :D

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