A Friend And His Fish

Posted by johngl

Not long ago, a friend of mine took a vacation in the wilds of British Columbia and caught a tiny little fish:

Lucky for his friends, he enjoys wine, has a large wine cellar, and shares his bounty.

I hadn’t seen him in a while, so when he called me last Saturday, interrupting my posting on the patio kitchen, I was thrilled to head over to give the man a hand prepping for the gathering he’d scheduled for that evening.  Salmon dinner for 20+.  No sweat.

No tables, no chairs either.

So, after a trip to the cleaners to drop off his poo-poo undies (and pick up about a month’s worth of clean clothes), it was time for a decent lunch and a couple of beers at Chuy’s new south location. Since Costco is very close by, and I was driving most glorious spousal unit’s Honda Elephent — it’s gray, so I call it the Elephent — the two tables, twelve chairs, and that large pile of clothes posed no problem.  I love the Elephent.

So, johngl, what about the flippin’ fish?

What fish?

Oh yeah.  Ummmm…where was I? It must me time for a picture…

That is NOT a fish!

Right!  Two points for you!

It is, however, where this fish story needs to go.  If you can’t supreme an orange, you’ll never get anywhere.  I found this on YouTube.  It should help you along. Save the juice.

Now, there is the matter of zest:

Clockwise, the zests of orange, lemon, grapefruit, and lime

Damn it man, I came here to read about the fish!

And all this time I thought it was my entertaining writing style.  Oh well.

Zest is very important to the story.  There should be two tablespoons of both orange and grapefruit zest and about a tablespoon each of lemon and lime zest.  Add two tablespoons of sugar and three tablespoons of salt to the party.  Mix them all up real good and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Now for the fish.


Watch it.  I might have to spank you if you keep this up.

See that indentation along the center?  We are looking to use the thick part of the fillet above that.  Cut down the center along the “v”.  Take that top, thick piece and slather it with the zest mixture.  Flip it onto a piece of foil and do the other side.  Now wrap it up tightly and put it in the fridge for about 2-3 hours.  It’s about an hour per 1/4″ of thickness.

Back to those supremed orange segments for a minute.  Take that saved juice and mix it with an equal part of sugar.  That is, if you have a half cup of juice, mix it with a half cup of sugar.  These are the makings of simple syrup only with orange juice. You will have a very grainy mixture at this point.  Apply heat and that will go away.


Good lord.  Okay, put the goo in a pan, take the pan to the stove, turn on the stove, apply heat until the grains of sugar dissolve.  Add a pinch of salt.  Turn off the heat.

You will want 4-6 supremed orange segments per serving.  Pour your syrup over these supremed segments.  Set aside.

If the time has elapsed, take out your salmon and rinse off that citrusy stuff.  Dry off the salmon with paper towels.  Cut the salmon into about 3″x3″ squares.  You don’t need a tape measure, just eyeball it.

This is where things can get a little messy.  We are going to poach this salmon in olive oil.

I’ve never heard of such a thing…

Trust me, this basic recipe came from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook. He knows his stuff.

Pour about two inches of olive oil into a pan that is at least 4″ deep (we don’t want olive oil pouring over the sides).  Heat the olive oil to 110°F.  Don’t let it get any hotter or cooler.  Carefully, add your fillet squares to the oil.  The oil should cover the fillets.  Keep the oil at 110°F and let the salmon just sit in there until the fillets are heated through.  Depending upon the initial temp of your salmon, this step might take a while.

The salmon won’t be cooked, will it?

Actually, yes, it will be cooked.  It will look like it is still raw, but it will flake apart very nicely once it up to temperature.

So, once the salmon is heated through, carefully remove the fillets from the oil and let them drain a bit.  Be very careful, the fillets are delicate.

Heat your orange segments up until just warm, then strain them and lay them on a plate.  Lay the salmon on top.  Take a bit of crème fraîche and spread it on the surface of your salmon…a very thin layer. Top with finely chopped chives.

Photo taken from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook

If you really want to fancy this up, top it with caviar.

If you are wondering why I am using a photo from the cookbook rather than one of my own, there were lots of people around me in a very tight kitchen.  There were also lots of ooohs and ahhhs and I didn’t want to spoil the moment.  Sometimes, life just gets in the way.

Anyway, if you have a friend who wants to share some salmon  (and wine) with you, go for it.  We had a great selection of grilled salmon, cured salmon (as sushi), some beef brisket (from a local BBQ joint) for the anti-fish crowd, and this citrusy salmon along with a LOT of other food that other folks brought over.  What more could you want?

BTW, I found this really great post by a woman who is going through the entire French Laundry Cookbook.  Her work is well written and she follows Keller’s instructions closely. If you want a more detailed description of what to do, that is the place to go.

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.