In French kitchens, butter rules. Here, poaching salmon in butter makes for an indulgent dish that—believe it or not—doesn’t taste too heavy, especially when paired, as it is here, with spices like dill weed, tarragon, and mustard to lighten its taste.
Butter-Poached Salmon with Capers & Green Peppercorns
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seed (2 grams)
1 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed (1 gram)
1 teaspoon tarragon (1 gram)
1/2 teaspoon green peppercorn (1 gram)
Finely grind the mustard seeds, dill, tarragon, and peppercorns together.
4 tablespoons salted butter, divided
3 large shallots, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
4 (1-inch-thick) skin-on boneless salmon fillets (4 to 5 ounces each)
1⁄2 lemon, scrubbed, seeded, and finely diced (with its peel)
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
To make the poached salmon: Heat a large saucepan, preferably 8 to 10 inches in diameter and at least 5 inches deep, over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons salted butter. Add the shallots, 2 pinches of the spice blend, and a pinch of salt. Stir to evenly coat the shallots with the spices and cover. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the remaining spice blend all over the salmon and set aside.
Add the lemon and capers to the pan, stir well, and add the wine. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Season to taste with salt. Simmer until the wine has reduced by a third, about 3 minutes. Add 11⁄2 cups water and season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a steady and low simmer.
Season the salmon with salt, then nestle the fillets in the simmering liquid, skin-side up, in a single layer. The liquid should just cover the salmon skin. If it doesn’t, add a little more water.
Poach until the salmon is opaque on the outside and barely cooked in the center, about 5 minutes. If you insert a cake tester or thin-bladed paring knife into the center, it should start by sliding through easily, then meet a little resistance. Transfer the salmon to individual serving dishes, peel off and discard the skin, and turn the salmon right-side up. Spoon the shallots and lemon all around.
Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and cook until it is reduced by a quarter, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in remaining tablespoons of butter. Season to taste with salt. Spoon some liquid over the salmon and serve the remainder on the side.