WINE WITH…Cold Poached Salmon and Aioli Vert
Few summer dishes are as rewarding as cool, silky poached salmon served with a flavorful fresh herb-infused aioli. Not only is this dish quick and relatively simple to prepare, with few last-minute requirements other than spooning the aїoli over the fish, it also is a particular treat for the wine lover as it marries beautifully with a variety of white and even pink wines. Because it is a fairly rich dish it does not need much else to accompany it. We served it
with an uncomplicated potato and green bean salad lightly dressed with oil and white-wine vinegar, but really, a loaf of good bread and maybe a tomato salad or cold artichokes are all that’s needed.
Among the many different ways to poach salmon the most common method is to immerse the fish in a simmering broth. We prefer to start the fish in cold liquid then bring it all up to a simmer. There likewise are many different ways to prepare aïoli, which is essentially a garlic-infused homemade mayonnaise (in this case spiked with fresh herbs). If you are a purist you probably will want to use the traditional mortar and pestle method for incorporating oil into raw eggs, but if you are pressed for time you are more apt to do as we did and use an immersion blender to make the aïoli (a regular blender also works, though not as dependably). This is a simple and virtually foolproof way to make mayonnaise as long as the eggs are at room temperature.
The salmon may be poached up to 24 hours ahead and chilled until ready to serve, but ideally it should be made about an hour before serving and left to cool at room temperature rather than refrigerating it.
Cold Poached Salmon With Aioli Vert
For the Salmon:
2 pounds salmon filet
1 cup white wine
½ lemon, unpeeled, cut in 4 pieces
½ red or yellow onion, cut in half or thirds
1 star anise pod
For the Aioli:
(may be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve)
1-2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 room temperature egg yolks
1 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
About 2 cups mixed, torn fresh herbs (we used mint, parsley, basil, chives and a few leaves of oregano)
Place the salmon in a large cooking pot (if the skin hasn’t been removed place the salmon skin side up in the pot). Pour in the wine and add enough cold water to just cover the fish. Add the lemon, onion and star anise. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon salt in the liquid. Turn the heat on and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pan and poach the fish for about 8-10 minutes or until it is cooked through. Ideally its internal temperature should be about 125° F (52°C). The skin should peel off easily once the fish is cooked. Transfer the salmon to a platter and cover it lightly with foil or a tea towel until ready to serve.
To make the aioli, place the garlic, lemon juice and mustard in the bottom of an immersion blender. Add the egg yolks, half a cup of the olive oil, and a little salt. Beat everything together with the blender wand until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the remaining oil and beat until the mixture is almost completely blended; then add the herbs and push them down into the mix. Moving the wand up and down, keep beating until everything is well blended.
To serve, coat the top of the salmon with a layer of aioli. Pass a bowl with the remaining aioli at the table.
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This dish paired successfully with a variety of white wines as well as rosés. Some, though, worked better than others. The best displayed little if any oak influence and tasted both bright and fresh. The dish, though rich, entices because it tastes refreshing. Look for a wine that does so too.