Sunday, December 21, 2014

Perfect Poached Salmon In A Bernaise Sauce

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I am rushing around this morning baking like crazy for the week ahead.  Yesterday I made the traditional black beans for the Christmas Day family lunch as well as cocktail cheese biscuits AND this easy poached salmon for dinner.  I bought a piece large enough to use the leftovers for the salmon mousse I will be making tomorrow for Madame Mere's guests from out of town.  Yes, MM is entertaining in her new apartment already! who would have thought...

This recipe was perfect and very easy to make.  The salmon should be cold so plan ahead, but it is also very good at room temperature.  I have to confess that  I simply did not have the time to cool it properly and I made it primarily to have leftovers for the the salmon mousse I will be making today.   One caveat, though...the cooking time in the recipe is different from that in the video.  Bake it for 15 minutes unless you like a  medium rare salmon which is very sophisticated but not to my liking.   It will still be very moist.

I love Alex Hitz but he is a big proponent of using salted butter in his cooking and I am not.  I prefer to control the salt myself and I have been cooking too long to change all my recipes now.  It is silly to buy one pound of salted butter just to make his recipe, so adjust the salt in the Bernaise sauce accordingly if you decide to use unsalted.

The recipe appears in this month's House Beautiful.

Perfect Poached Salmon With A Bernaise Sauce

For the Poached Salmon
Yield: 6 to 8 servings


2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 pounds boneless, skinless salmon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1½ cups white wine
2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into quarters


Preheat the oven to 375° F. Add 1 tablespoon of shallots to a 9" x 13" baking dish and spread them out evenly.
Season the salmon on each side with the salt and pepper, then place it in the baking dish. Spread the remaining shallots on top. Pour the white wine over the salmon and dot the fish with the butter. Lightly press a sheet of wax paper onto the top of the salmon.
Bake the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes, (notice in the video he says 13-15 mins.) until cooked through but still rare. Remove it from the oven, pour off and discard the liquid, and let the salmon cool. When cooled, cover the fish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 3 hours or up to 3 days. Serve with the béarnaise sauce.

For the Béarnaise Sauce
Yield: 1 cup


¼ cup white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1½ teaspoons dried tarragon
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper


1. In a large, heavy saucepan over high heat, combine the white wine, vinegar, shallots, tarragon, black pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon salt and boil until the mixture is thick and sticky, like syrup. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan.
3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the egg yolks, water, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and white pepper. Process until thick, about 2 minutes.
4. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, pour it slowly into the food processor, with the processor running, until an emulsion forms.
5. Remove the sauce to a warm bowl, stir in the tarragon mixture, and serve immediately.
Top photo House Beautiful
other Lindaraxa


  1. You could presumably poach it in a fish kettle for about 2-3 minutes instead? I think that's how my mother used to do it. The black beans dish sounds familiar from my days with our mutual Cuban friend, who seems to have disappeared off the radar.

    1. Yep, that works but who has one of those these days? This is a great substitution. Merry Christmas, dearest!

  2. Another mouth-watering triumph, although the photo and recipe are probably as close as I am going to get to this. About the salted butter, which I believe was not long ago threshed out in one of Reggie's posts, it is much better to use sweet butter and add your own salt--presalting actually changes the taste and quality of the underlying butter, altering that really fresh flavor. I tend to like less and less salt anyway, and often feel that many foods are over-salted.

    1. Yes, there was a big camp of Reggieites on the salt camp side with one dissent, me! I don't know of any great chef who likes to cook with salted butter, including Julia Child. Anyway, this is a great recipe and very easy. Merry Christmas, Jim and thanks for all your support.

  3. Poached salmon and Bearnaise is one of my favorite classic dishes. You've accomplished it beautifully. I prefer my salmon cooked past medium rare too, but definitely not overcooked. I am very fond of Alex Hitz and have his cookbook. I enjoy his stories as much or more than I do his recipes. He just oozes charm. I'm glad to hear Madame Mere is feeling at home and making friends.

    Wishing you and your family a very, very Merry Christmas.

    1. Merry Christmas Sam and thanks for all your support!

  4. Gosh, I am salivating just reading this. I love this sauce and make it when serving halibut or grouper but with fresh tarragon - unsalted butter, of course.

    Do please post the recipe for your beans. A friend makes them and they are very tasty but I don't know what she flavors them with.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and thank you for a wonderful year of blog posts.

    1. The recipe uses dried but I did use fresh tarragon. I have so much I use it any time I can! Just click there on black beans and it will take you to my mother's recipe posted a couple of years ago.

  5. I confess to being one of those old-fashioned types who does indeed own a fish kettle (as Ewan the Columnist calls it) and the last time a salmon was poached, I followed a recipe in which once the liquid reached the boil, the flame was turned off altogether, allowing the fish to sit in its court bullion for 20 minutes. It sounds insane, but the resulting salmon was better than anything attempted previously.

    As for the chilling of salmon for more than a day, I am inclined to agree with Julia Child when she tells us that the charms of poached salmon are fleeting. And, now that I am on my soapbox, fresh tarragon is essential for a fine sauce bearnaise.

  6. Toby, Toby, Toby...why am I not surprised you have a fish kettle. I will tell you that you just solved a mystery for me. My salmon mousse did not turn out as tasty as usual and the answer must be the poached salmon. Thank you. On the other hand, of course I used fresh tarragon! That's another mystery why mine thrives when everyone else has a hard time growing it here in the South. I have a ton which I have freezed and would not think of using dried but this is Mr. Hitz recioe and it was very good indeed. Merry Christmas dearest. At least neither one of us has the flu this season! Remember how sick we both were a couple of years ago????


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