To­matillo salsa of­fers fresh ap­proach to poach­ing sal­mon

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By Sara Moul­ton

The French love to cook fish by poach­ing it in a fla­vored liq­uid, usu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of white wine and water, leeks or onions, and some herbs. It’s a no­tably lean way to roll be­cause there’s no fat in­volved. And the fin­ished prod­uct is re­li­ably ten­der be­cause it’s been cooked at a low tem­per­a­ture.

So, it’s lean, ten­der and ... quite bor­ing. I crave more fla­vor and tex­ture. So here’s a recipe for poached sal­mon that adds the miss­ing el­e­ments.

Typ­i­cally, poach­ing calls for a lot of liq­uid. The fish is sup­posed to be sub­merged as it cooks, af­ter which the liq­uid usu­ally is tossed. I wanted a way to poach the fish in a small amount of liq­uid, which then could do dou­ble duty as a sauce. Given that fish gen­er­ally re­quires a spritz of acid to brighten it up, the ideal liq­uid needed to be acidic and in­tensely fla­vored. Green salsa — that is, to­matillo salsa with chilies and lime juice — struck me as a likely can­di­date.

The sal­mon wouldn’t have to swim in a vat of the salsa. I made a modest batch and cooked the sal­mon in a small­ish skil­let with the salsa ris­ing half­way up the sides of the fil­lets. I cov­ered the pan tightly to trap the heat and flipped over the sal­mon half­way through its cook­ing time to make sure it cooked evenly.

How do you know when the sal­mon is fin­ished cook­ing? If you slide a knife into it and the blade sails through the fil­let with no re­sis­tance, it’s done. And be sure to pull it off the heat when there’s still a tiny bit of re­sis­tance left, which will al­low for carry-over cook­ing time.

For crunch, I sprin­kled tor­tilla chips on top; they are salsa’s clas­sic part­ner. But these were my own healthy baked tor­tilla chips, which take only 15 min­utes to pre­pare. On the whole, this recipe is pretty quick and easy to make, but you can stream­line it even fur­ther by pick­ing up green salsa and baked tor­tilla chips at the su­per­mar­ket. By the way, there were leftovers the sec­ond time we tested this win­ner. When we pol­ished them off the next day, we dis­cov­ered that this dish is just as de­li­cious cold as hot.

Sal­mon poached in green salsa and topped with baked chips

Start to fin­ish: 40 min­utes Serv­ings: 4 For the tor­tilla strips:

2 ta­ble­spoons veg­etable oil 1 tea­spoon chili pow­der 1⁄2 tea­spoon ground cumin Four 6-inch corn tor­tillas Kosher salt For the sal­mon: 8 ounces fresh tomatil­los, husked, rinsed and quar­tered 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped scal­lions (white and light green parts) 1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro 1 ta­ble­spoon lime juice 1⁄2 jalapeno or ser­rano chili, seeds re­moved if de­sired 2 cloves gar­lic, finely chopped 2 ta­ble­spoons veg­etable oil 1⁄2 cup finely chopped red onion Kosher salt and ground black pep­per 1 1⁄2 pounds cen­ter-cut sal­mon fil­let, cut into 4 equal por­tions

To make the tor­tilla strips, heat the oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl, stir to­gether the oil, chili pow­der and cumin. Brush the oil mix­ture over both sides of each tor­tilla. Us­ing a knife or pizza wheel, cut the tor­tillas into thin strips. Ar­range the strips in a sin­gle layer on a rimmed bak­ing sheet. Bake the strips on the oven’s mid­dle shelf for 6 to 8 min­utes, or un­til crispy. Sprin­kle with salt, let cool com­pletely, then break them up slightly. Set aside.

To pre­pare the salsa, in a food pro­ces­sor, com­bine the tomatil­los, scal­lions, cilantro, lime juice, chili and gar­lic. Pulse un­til the in­gre­di­ents are al­most smooth with a few small chunks.

In a medium skil­let over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stir­ring, un­til soft­ened, about 5 min­utes. Add the to­matillo mix­ture and sim­mer gen­tly, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 10 min­utes. If the mix­ture gets too dry, add ½ cup of water. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Add the sal­mon to the skil­let, skin sides down, then cover the skil­let tightly and sim­mer gen­tly for 5 min­utes.

Turn the sal­mon over, cover tightly and sim­mer gen­tly un­til the sal­mon is al­most cooked through, about an­other 5 min­utes. Re­move the pan from the heat and let the sal­mon stand for 3 min­utes, cov­ered, be­fore serv­ing.

To serve, trans­fer a por­tion of sal­mon to each of 4 plates, then top each with sauce and tor­tilla strips.

Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 470 calo­ries; 240 calo­ries from fat (51 per­cent of to­tal calo­ries); 27 g fat (3 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg choles­terol; 370 mg sodium; 18 g car­bo­hy­drate; 3 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 40 g pro­tein.

Sara Moul­ton is host of public tele­vi­sion’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was ex­ec­u­tive chef at Gourmet mag­a­zine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade host­ing sev­eral Food Net­work shows, in­clud­ing “Cook­ing Live.”

MATTHEW MEAD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sal­mon poached in green salsa and topped with baked chips in Concord, N.H. This dish is from a recipe by Sara Moul­ton.

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