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Aug 22, 2017
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WINE WITH…Cold Poached Salmon with Sauce Verte

When a flourishing late-summer herb garden seems to be begging for a trim, green sauce for dinner is in order. Central and South America’s chimichurri is perhaps the most popular green sauce these days, and it’s easy to see why: light and somewhat spicy, generally vinegar based, and with parsley and cilantro usually the star ingredients, chimichurri is an uncomplicated and refreshing sauce that is traditionally served with grilled meats. Italian salsa verde, typically redolent of parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and sometimes capers and anchovies, can accompany fish, roasted meats, and grilled vegetables. Mexican salsa verde uses tomatillos as its base. Since we had a lovely fillet of salmon in the fridge waiting to be poached, we decided to make a French-inspired sauce verte to go with it. Because the French version of a green sauce is generally based on mayonnaise, it tends to have a uniquely rich texture and complex flavors that, as we discovered, beautifully echo The salmon’s own richness.

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Cold Poached Salmon With Sauce Verte

Serves 2

There is no particular rule about which herbs should go into a sauce verte. Parsley is ubiquitous, and in France, watercress and tarragon show up frequently in the sauce. We used whatever herbs were growing in our garden except for sage, whose somewhat aggressive flavors we feared might overpower the salmon. And as we didn’t want the sauce to taste too much like pesto, we added basil with a light hand.

Poach the salmon the night before or several hours before serving. If possible, make the sauce at least a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the texture to thicken somewhat.
1 cup white wine
1/2 onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
6-8 peppercorns or a little freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 pound salmon fillet
1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
1 teaspoon each mint, basil, thyme, and/or marjoram
1 tablespoon minced or snipped chives
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise, homemade or good quality commercial

Pour the wine into a skillet large enough to hold the salmon. Cut the onion in half and add the chunks to the pan along with the salt, pepper and bay leaf. Put the salmon in the pan and add enough cold water to just cover the fish. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and as soon as the liquid just comes to a boil cover the pan, reduce the heat, and simmer it for 4 minutes. Immediately turn the heat off and let the pan sit, covered, until the mixture cools down, about one hour. Resist the temptation to uncover the pan and take a peek during this time.

Using a slotted spatula, transfer the salmon to a plate. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the sauce, roughly chop or tear the parsley leaves into smaller fragments and put them in a food processor. Do the same with the basil and mint and add them to the food processor along with the minced chives and whatever other herbs you are using. Pulse in the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Pulse in the mayonnaise, and as soon as it is blended into the sauce, stop the machine. Transfer the finished sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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White or rosé wines work best with this dish. It tastes substantial but at the same time cool and refreshing, and you’ll want to choose a wine that does the same. The herbal sauce seems tailor made for a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, but we found that other varieties work equally well. Just don’t go for anything too heavy or overtly oaky. That sort of wine will just get in the way.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Susana Balbo, Valle de Uco, Mendoza (Argentina) Torrontes “Signature Barrel Fermented” 2014

(Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners)

$24

The idea of this wine frightened us. Intensely aromatic Torrontes fermented in wood? Wouldn’t the barrels obliterate the grape’s charm? Well, no, not at all. They gave the wine added depth on the palate without imparting excessive flavors of vanilla or char. The reality of the wine thus delighted us. It served as a reminder that intellectualizing is no substitute for actually tasting.

Patient Cottat

Sancerre (France) “Anciennes Vignes”

2015

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$28

We were pretty confident that this wine, made with 100% Sauvignon Blanc, would pair well with the salmon, and indeed it did. The grape’s natural herbal qualities meshed effortlessly with the sauce verte.

Donnafugata

Sicily (Italy)

Zibibbo “Lighea” 2015

(Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners)

$22

“Zibibbo” is the Sicilian name for Muscat of Alexandria, an ancient variety with a sweet perfume and succulent flavors. When paired with our sauced salmon, “Lighea” provided a contrast of aroma and flavor. It was slightly off-dry but focused, and more than held its own.

Nals Margreid, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Punggl” 2015(Imported by The Country Vintner)

$20

Unlike most northern Italian Pinot Grigios which often taste tart but non-descript, this wine offers a panoply of enticing citrus and mineral-tinged flavors. Though a tad too light for this dish, it tasted so good that we simply had to include it among our recommendations.

Stinson Vineyards. Monticello (Virginia) Sauvignon Blanc 2015

$24

Clean, crisp, and downright fun to drink, this Sauvignon augments its bold citrus flavors with echoes of melons and figs. Its appeal comes purely from its abundant fruit flavors, all supported by a firm backbone of acidity that cut right through the richness of the poached fish.