Not literally, of course: by the time the boats come into the harbor, the fish are already on board, and only the harbor seals are likely to snack on those swimming under our whaleboats. Still, a geography student who grew up on the edge of the harbor has introduced me to two seafood markets -- Kyler's and Fisherman's -- where the fish practically swim up to the counter.
|Sockeye image: AllTackle.com|
Before I went seafaring this morning, Pam browsed Barton Seaver's Cod and Country -- the bible of sustainable seafood and the inspiration for our Peppery Pairing post back in March. On page 153, she found Warm Poached Salmon in Red Wine Sauce, clearly a good reason to look for salmon when I arrived at Kyler's after my row. For some reason, the wild, red sockeye was the same price as farm-raised pink salmon, so I went with the "fishier" option. On careful reading later, I saw that Seaver recommended pink salmon, but I think he would still have favored the wild over the farm-raised.
The recipe calls for heating the oven, only to 200 degrees, and then heating a thinly sliced shallot and a couple of sprigs of thyme in two cups of red wine. The wine should not be generic "cooking" wine in his view, since the cooking -- especially with the dramatic reduction used in this recipe -- would accentuate any flaws. We considered our home-vinted Pinot Noir, but decided to go all in, and I chose a Beaujolais. Specifically, I got two bottles of 2011 Beaujolais-Villages from Louis Jadot (est. 1869), made in Beaujolais -- bien sur! -- from Gamay grapes.
The two bottles were distributed as follows -- one half of the first bottle for poaching and one half for the chefs (Pam made a wonderful salad that had really been in the field at Colchester hours earlier); the second bottle was served (by and to us) to accompany dinner and a movie. Even in more usual circumstances where we just a more modest amount of wine in the cooking, I recommend cooking with something that can be served proudly with the meal.
Seaver is very specific about the heating and poaching -- the liquid in the pan should be maintained at 170 degrees (which I did) and the salmon should be cooked in 12 minutes (which it was not). I eventually realized that the problem was my lack of attention to one detail. Seaver specifies the use of a saucepan barely big enough to hold the salmon. I had one large piece, cut in two, but only occupying about 2/3 of our large, indispensable cast-iron skillet. I should have used a smaller pan, so that the fish would be entirely in the steaming wine.
Eventually, then, the fish was cooked through, and I transferred it to a warm platter in the oven. Then I turned up the heat on the remaining wine and shallots, until the two cups was reduced to two tablespoons. (I was reminded of a Northern Exposure episode in which Maurice did something similar with beef, at great expense.) Once the wine was reduced, I removed the thyme sprig, and melted two tablespoons of butter into the sauce. I then poured this over the fish and served it with some fresh bread and Pam's wonderful salad and a slightly-chilled second bottle of Beaujolais. Because the tasting notes from Louis Jadot mentioned strawberry as a major part of the flavor profile, I put a few strawbs into the salad, to good effect.