A poached fish dish that's guaranteed to reel 'em in


Because I was intimidated by too many television chef programs, fish poaching was not among my preferred cooking methods. As I watched the masters swaddling a whole fish in cheesecloth and wrestling it into a $150 fish poacher, I decided I'd rather get out the grill. Poaching looked too risky. I could barely fit four hamburgers into my skillet; what could I do with a whitefish?

It took me years to realize that poaching enough fish for two is far easier than doing a whole salmon or comparable fish. I didn't need unusual preparation methods or equipment. In fact, all I really needed was a skillet deep enough to hold the fish and enough cooking liquid to half cover it.

I can poach fish steaks in a fraction of the time it takes to cook whole fish and avoid any waste. Now I've done it enough to actually like it. Poaching adds few calories, while retaining the natural flavor of the fish. When I want to serve fish with a sauce, I poach the fish first to create a mild base for the sauce.

As an impressive yet quick menu for two, I often make poached salmon with orange-mint creme fraiche. The orange and mint flavors are a refreshing accent to the rich salmon.

Since locally grown new potatoes and tomatoes are in the markets, I combine the two in a zesty salad that complements the fish.

Poached salmon with orange-mint creme fraiche

Makes 2 servings.

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf

3 to 4 peppercorns

peel of 1 orange

2 small salmon steaks (each 4 to 5 ounces)

salt, freshly ground white pepper

orange-mint creme fraiche

Combine wine, water, bay leaf, peppercorns and orange peel in medium non-reactive pan. Bring to simmer. Add salmon steaks and cook over low heat 5 minutes on one side. Gently turn over and cook second side until fish is done, 4 to 5 minutes longer.

Remove salmon to 2 serving plates and set aside to cool to room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare orange-mint creme fraiche. Spoon over salmon or serve in bowl.

Orange-mint creme fraiche

Makes a scant 1/2 cup.

1/4 cup creme fraiche (see note)

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon minced mint leaves

salt, freshly ground white pepper

Gently stir together creme fraiche, orange juice, mint and salt and pepper to taste in small bowl.

Note: Creme fraiche has a slight tang and the consistency of sour cream. It is available in gourmet food stores and some grocery stores. If desired, stir together 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons whipping cream as a quick substitute.

Potato-tomato salad

Makes 2 servings.

2 small new potatoes (each about size of a lemon)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, stems removed

1 green onion, white and green parts, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling water to cover until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well. Peel if desired. Cut into bite-size cubes and place in bowl.

Halve tomatoes and add to potatoes along with green onion and cilantro.

Stir together mustard, vinegar, oil and pepper and salt to taste in a cup. Pour over potato mixture, tossing gently but well. Set aside 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Bev Bennett is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and author of four cookbooks.

Bev Bennett

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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