Poached Salmon from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook {recipe}

Poached Salmon
We’re having a salmon moment.

And while at one time that had everything to do with one stylistically monochromatic summer when our entire wardrobe ranged from pale peach Polo shirts to deep orange-y red pedicures, this is a food blog, so we don’t even need any sort of clarification.

We’re eating a lot of fish.

It started with Eating Rainbow, when salmon was going to be the healthy, omega-3 laden protein part of “orange,” but we couldn’t squeeze it in between all the brightly colored beta-carotene bearing produce. Besides, we eventually came to the realization that a single post about the fish wasn’t going to cut it. A whole side of salmon? We could post for a week!

And that’s what we’re attempting this week.

Poaching is one of my favorite ways of cooking salmon, since there’s very little chance of overcooking it or drying it out. (For some reason, I am much better with timing on the stovetop than I am with an oven or worse, a grill). I’ve always just lowered a large piece of salmon into a pot of simmering water and let it relax there for about 10 minutes. I actually prefer fish like salmon (and tuna) slightly more rare, so I pull it out even a little earlier. We eat some for a meal that night, then put the rest in the refrigerator to eat all week.

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook has a recipe for Poached Salmon that is a little more involved. As usual, it recommends the use of equipment that no normal person has in her kitchen: a fish poacher. However, there are instructions for how to get around it, using a deep roasting pan and rack, which I sort of did, except that I used a regular, though very large, pot.

Once salmon is poached, it can be served in so many ways, one of which, of course, is just simply with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. After that, the possibilities are endless, though we cut ourselves off after about 17.

Poached Salmon Recipe from Ad Hoc at Home

serves 6


Court Bouillon (recipe below)
One 2 ½- to 3-pound side of salmon, pin bones removed
Maldon sea salt or other flaky sea salt
Small dill sprigs
Extra virgin olive oil

Court Bouillon

makes about 5 quarts

4 leeks (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise, washed well, and cut cross-wise into ½-inch pieces
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick rounds
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 sachet (1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, 10 black peppercorns, 1 smashed garlic clove)
4 quarts water
2 cups dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 lemons, halved

Combine vegetables and sachet in large stock pot, add water, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add wine and vinegar. Squeeze lemon juice then add lemon halves to the pot. Return to simmer.

Use as directed in remainder of recipe.

Poached Salmon Directions

Strain court bouillon into saucepan and heat over medium-high heat to 200F (reserve the vegetables).

Put fish skin side down on a rack in a large roasting pan and add enough court bouillon liquid to cover the fish completely. If space allows, add some of the reserved vegetables back into the court bouillon. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring the liquid back to 200F. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a temperature of 190F to 200F.

To Serve the Salmon Cold (Room Temperature)

Remove the pan from the heat when the center of the fillet reaches 110F, about 10 minutes. Let the salmon sit in the liquid off the heat. Allow the fish to cool in the liquid, then refrigerate in the liquid for up to one day. Use the largest spatulas you have (or your hands) to gently lift the salmon from the liquid. Drain well and place on serving platter.

To Serve the Salmon Hot

Remove the pan from the heat when the center of the fillet reaches 120F. Let the salmon sit in the liquid off the heat until the internal temperature reaches 125F, then use the largest spatulas you have to gently lift the salmon from the liquid. Drain well and place on serving platter. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt and dill and drizzle with olive oil.

by Sarah J. Gim on August 10, 2011 · 11 comments

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tres Delicious August 11, 2011 at 12:35 am

your salmon looks great. Hope mine will turn out like yours. Nice photo.


Sarah J. Gim August 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

tres delicious: thank you!

Cubicle.com August 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

Wow, this looks great. I have this cookbook and never know what to try. I know now!


Sarah J. Gim August 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

cubicle: you’ve also GOT to do the creamed corn with lime … SO easy. SO awesome.

Claudine August 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

That’s a beautiful salmon nicoise salad! I also have the Ad Hoc cookbook and also have been somewhat apprehensive about the extensive procedures. Did you allow the salmon to cool in the liquid after poaching before serving?


Deb August 19, 2011 at 11:17 am

This sounds great! But you really should try some Himalayan pink salt. I get mine from Sustainable Sourcing https://secure.sustainablesourcing.com. The flavor is so much better than regular salt! Thanks for sharing this recipe—I can’t wait to try it!


Tessa April 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

This salmon is exceptional in flavor and texture! Truly worth the trouble. It’s not difficult, just a little time consuming. This recipe will be my go-to salmon recipe for a buffet where the salmon is served with condiments (capers, chopped hardboiled egg, chopped red onion, chopped tomato, creme fraiche with dill, etc) on pumpernickel toast points!!!! Woweeee!


frenchiefries July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That is one gorgeous salmon. I’m doing it! And I’m laying the eggs myself.


TuscanFoodie July 9, 2016 at 1:24 pm

I think making a COURT BOUILLON is a little overkill. I use water, salt and pepper, and a little mixed herb seasoning. No real difference in taste than the COURT BOUILLON and much time and expense saved.


Susan Yakus December 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm

My neighbor served this today at a brunch. It was beyond delicious and I begged for the recipe. I’ve never been a big fan of salmon, but this served cold with the sour cream and dill sauce was out of this world. I will never look at salmon the same again!


Alene December 26, 2017 at 9:22 am

I made it too and it was perfect! The only thing I changed was cooking some of the court bouillon ingredients with white wine and water in the pan around the salmon. Making the court bouillon was too fussy. I brought it to a friend’s birthday dinner, 35 people. Everyone brought heavy casserole-like dishes, and the 3 lb salmon disappeared! My husband didn’t even get to taste it! The salmon was moist and delicious from all the veggies and herbs around it. Making it again for New Year’s Eve.


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