Okay I might have failed and I might have succeeded – you will have to tell me. My intent was to make a super easy weeknight salmon, and then it ended up looking all fancy. But here’s the thing, this Poached Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce ended up being really easy to make and is quite flexible and I am giving you directions to accommodate any amount of salmon you might have. And, even with the optional cucumber scales you can make this is 30 minutes!
Easy as 1-2-3
The poaching is as simple as filling a skillet with water and seasonings and briefly cooking the fish and the sauce is simply yogurt whisked together with some herbs. The cucumber “scales”? Well, those are optional; stick with me here.
This recipe for Poached Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce hails from my catering days in the 80s. We used to poach whole salmon, which admittedly is a production, and then present the fish, complete with its “scales” on the buffet, head and all. I wish I knew where all those old pre-digital photographs were. We would name each fish and “dress him up”. Sometimes he got a frilly dill necklace. Other times we would make eyes with olives. One time, we used thinly sliced lemon for the scales.
Scale Up, Scale Down
It’s a spectacular presentation and very tasty. I figured, why not do this with a simple filet? So, the poaching directions are fairly loose and meant to be scaled up or down depending on your needs and can be applied to varying weights of fish. Similarly, the sauce can be doubled or even quadrupled depending on how much you might want.
Versatility in One Dish
Another versatile aspect of this dish is that without the cucumber scales it is just as lovely hot, warm or chilled. If you are adding the scales, it should be served at room temperature or a bit chilled.
Poached Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce
This Poached Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce looks fancy but us actually very easy to make, so don't overlook it during the week. The cucumber scales are optional but if you have a mandoline, take less than 5 minutes to add.
- 1 1/2 to 2 pound (680 g to 910 g) filet of salmon, preferably an even thickness throughout
- 1/4 cup (16 g) chopped scallions, green parts only
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt
- 2, 4- ounce (115 g) Persian cucumbers, (about 6-inches (15 cm) long each), optional
- 1/2 batch Yogurt Dill Sauce
- Poaching the Fish: Place the fish in a wide, deep skillet and cover with water by about 1-inch (2.5 cm). Add scallions, lemon slices, peppercorns, bay leaf and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; you want the water to be barely simmering. By the time the water comes to that simmer, check the filet. You want to cook it just until it is opaque throughout and it might be done more quickly than you imagine. I often bring the water to a simmer, then turn the heat off, cover the pan and allow the fish to sit for a few minutes, then check again. It will all depend on the thickness of your fish and how cold the fish was at the beginning. An approximation is 5 to 10 minutes per inch of fish, but again, best way to tell is to use a visual assessment.
- Gently remove fish from the water with a slotted spatula. It can go directly on a serving plate, you can dab it on and off a wad of paper towels briefly and/or you can easily peel off the skin, if you like. If you are serving the fish without the cucumber scales, simply serve hot, warm temperature or even a little chilled with Dill Sauce alongside.
- For the Optional Scales: Trim and discard the ends of the cucumbers. Slice crosswise paper thin; this is most easily accomplished with a mandoline, but you can also use a very sharp chef’s knife. Arrange the cucumbers as seen in images, slightly overlapping in each row and from one row to the next. If you have a whole fish, start at the tail.
- Depending on what you have around, you can add a bit more flavor to the poaching liquid, if you like. Add a glug of white wine. Add a chopped celery stalk. Add a chopped carrot. Or add all the above to the basic mixture. If you are making the Dill Sauce and have some extra fresh dill, throw it in there, too.