With salmon as fresh and lovely as this was, I was inclined to cook it as simply as possible. But, I still wanted to dress it up at least a little. This beautiful sockeye salmon was a second shipment I received from the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association. You can find more info about Copper River salmon, recipes, and a salmon locator on their Facebook page. Right before this salmon arrived, I had been flipping through Canal House Cooking Volume No. 4, of which I received a review copy, and the Lemon-Butter Sauce from it was something I couldn't wait to try. Hamilton and Hirsheimer refer to the sauce as "similar to hollandaise but better—fresher tasting, not so cloyingly thick." They learned this sauce from Darina Allen at Ballymaloe where she made it with Kerrygold butter which is what I used as well. It has the same ingredients as a classic hollandaise but only two egg yolks rather than three or four. Like hollandaise, the sauce is whisked together over low heat, and lots of butter is added one piece at a time. Still, it has a lighter texture than hollandaise, and the lemon flavor is front and center. It's a fantastic sauce for salmon.
Here, the salmon was plainly poached in salted water. You'll want to check the doneness from time to time as it poaches. I portioned the salmon into pieces before poaching, and for me, the total cooking time was just under ten minutes. You'll need to cook the salmon first and let it sit for a few minutes while making the sauce, or make the sauce and keep it warm while the salmon poaches. Both steps are so quick, you can't really do them at the same time. For the sauce, two egg yolks and a tablespoon of water were whisked in a medium saucepan over low heat. Then, eight tablespoons of butter were added, one tablespoon at a time, while whisking constantly. Each bit of butter should melt completely into the sauce before adding the next. You want to be sure the sauce isn't cooking too quickly, and you can take the pan off the heat from time to time while whisking. When all of the butter has been added to the sauce, you should remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a tablespoon of lemon juice. Then, taste and season as needed. The sauce can be kept warm by placing the saucepan in a larger pan or heat-proof bowl of hot water. The salmon was served topped with sauce and chopped chives and tarragon or Mexican mint marigold leaves which is what grows easily here.
It's such a simple, lemony, just-rich-enough sauce, I'll be making it often. And, I loved that the instructions for making it were so straightforward. It's as easy to make as it is delicious. And, even though the salmon didn't really require any embellishment, this made it even better.
A couple of other recipes grabbed my attention in this volume of Canal House Cooking. There's a Salmon Salad and a Halibut Salad, and I really liked things about both. I flaked the leftover poached salmon, and made a salad that combined the two. First, I added finely chopped preserved lemon and chives suggested for the Salmon Salad, and then I added the green onions, celery, parsley, and mayonnaise from the Halibut Salad. I served the result as tartines with mixed salad greens. Lemon punctuated both the sauce and the salad, but the fresh, wild sockeye salmon was the star of both dishes.