Friday, March 2, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie: Olive Oil-Poached Salmon with Lentils, Bacon and Crispy Fried Leeks

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Roasted Salmon and Lentils, introduced me to another classic pairing of ingredients. Of course, I had to first read and compare several recipes, and consult The Flavor Bible, before tweaking the recipe. I also prepared different variations, two nights in a row, before achieving the results I preferred. Dorie even says, like many simple dishes, this one takes to tweaking, even to deluxeing - I've seen it made grand with the addition of truffles, which are wonderful with both lentils and salmon. I didn't have a hunk of black truffle hanging around, but followed Dorie's recommendation of adding a few drops of truffle oil to finish the salmon just before serving.

As with last week's French Onion Soup, each chef puts his or her own twist on the pairing of Salmon and Lentils. If you look up lentils in The Flavor Bible, you'll see the very highly recommended pairings of ingredients - bay leaf, carrots, celery, garlic, oil, parsley, pepper, SALMON, salt, stocks, and vinegar. Under salmon, you'll see many of the same very highly recommended pairings, including bay leaf, carrots, garlic, LENTILS, oil, onions, parsley, pepper, salt, stocks and vinegar. Frequently recommended pairings for both salmon and lentils include bacon and leeks. Finally, under salmon, one of the flavor affinities (compatible flavor groups) is salmon + bacon + lentils + sherry vinegar.

While I didn't follow Dorie's preparation methods, I did use the classic pairing of ingredients used in many of the recipes I reviewed, and I added a few others which are often used: Bacon and sherry wine vinegar in the lentils, and crispy fried leeks for garnish. I've poached fish in olive oil once or twice, and wanted to try that method with this salmon (wonderfully moist, tender and perfectly cooked). For the lentils, I liked the idea of rendering the bacon until just starting to brown, and then sauteing the carrots and onions in the bacon fat before adding the lentils and stock or water. The crispy fried leeks added a nice flavor and texture to the finished dish.

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Lentils, Bacon, and Crispy Leeks
Inspired by Roasted Salmon and Lentils (Around My French Table)
(Serves 4)

Lentils with Bacon

2 slices bacon, cut in thin strips
1/4 cup chopped carrots, chopped in roughly ½-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 pound French green lentils, lentilles du Puy if you can find them
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
Black pepper, to taste

Cook the bacon over medium-low heat in a medium pot until the fat renders and the bacon starts to sizzle and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, coating them with the flavoring mixture. Add the water, stir and bring to a simmer. Add three-fourths teaspoon salt, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. They should still be slightly soupy. Just before serving, stir in the red wine vinegar and black pepper.

Olive Oil-Poached Salmon
Adapted from Salt to Taste by Marco Canora (published in The New York Times)

2 pound salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into 4 pieces (room temperature)
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
About 3 cups olive oil; more if necessary to cover fish
1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Minced parsley or chives, for garnish
Crispy fried leeks, for garnish
Drizzle of truffle oil (optional)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel lemon to remove yellow part only, in strips. Combine thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic, lemon peel, and olive oil in a pan just wide enough to hold fish in a single layer without touching. Make sure there is enough olive oil to cover the fillets once added.

Season salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.

Attach a deep-frying thermometer to pan and heat oil to 180 degrees over medium-low heat. Reduce heat and monitor temperature, adjusting until temperature remains stable at 180 degrees. When temperature is stable, add fish. Oil temperature will drop, so raise heat slightly (never above medium-low) just until it reaches 180 degrees again, and then reduce heat.

Cook fish about 13 to 15 minutes, until the top is completely opaque and the internal temperature of the thickest part of the fillets reach 140 degrees. Carefully remove the fillets from the oil to a plate lined with paper towels, and let drain.

Spoon lentils into serving bowl and place salmon fillet on top. Drizzle with a few drops of truffle oil, and garnish with fried leeks and chopped parsley.

Crispy Fried Leeks

2 cups matchstick-size strips leeks (about 4 medium leeks) 
Peanut oil
1/2 cup flour

Cut the leeks  (white and pale green parts only) in half lengthwise, wash and dry thoroughly, and slice into very thin strips.

Pour peanut oil into heavy small saucepan to depth of 1 inch and heat to 350°F. Dredge leeks in flour, shake off excess, and fry in small batches until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Using slotted spoon, transfer fried leeks to paper towels. Season with a pinch of salt and allow to drain.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!


Cher Rockwell said...

What a lovely take on this week's dish - the fried leeks & bacon are such a great touch.

Heather said...

I'm going to try this again with the leeks! What gorgeous photos; thank for sharing.

Ei said...

Wow. I want your version!

Adriana said...

Denise, I love your twist to this recipe so much! I haven't poached fish in oil yet, and it is a technique I would definitely love to play with.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I was thinking about a piece of poached salmon even though I've never poached a salmon, I was thinking that it's about time I should learn how. It's like you were reading my mind ... or I was reading your mind ... weird. - Carmen

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga said...

Hi Denise, it was AWESOME meeting you yesterday. Your food is gorgeous! Now that I am on your blog, I know I've seen your stuff on Foodgawker. Such pretty pics!

Keep in touch; us San Diego bloggers need to stick together :)

Guyla said...

Bacon and fried looks sound like great additions!

Anonymous said...

omg i bet both crispy leeks and bacon would be really great with this dish followed by a dollop of creme fraiche!! :)

Alice @

kellypea said...

What a wonderful recipe. I keep promising myself that I'll get Dorie's book on French cooking and I still haven't done it. Poaching in oil is such a great technique!