I’m always amazed when guests say things like “you make entertaining look so easy” or “I could never have you over to my house”. You know what? I’m actually an exceptionally lazy cook and a lousy housekeeper. But, I LOVE to entertain. (I have a regular cleaning service which I consider an essential household expense and critical for my sanity). I believe the most important part of entertaining is enjoying HUMAN CONNECTION! Is this heightened by great food? Sure! But you don’t have to put on a gourmet feast to entertain successfully.
Tonight, it was just my brother Luke and my boys here for a Sunday night supper on the porch and I made my favorite summer dish. Of course, it has to be served on a platter because that’s what I do…. serving food family-style creates a greater feeling of intimacy and connection around the table, in my humble opinion. It also just looks pretty!
So, how do I go about this particular meal? This is the menu: Poached Salmon with steamed Asparagus, Roasted Baby Potatoes and a Horseradish Mustard Mayo. I promise you that this is simple.
To serve 6 people you’ll need:
SALMON: 2 – 2.5 lb side of salmon, 1 bottle of white wine (prosecco works too), half a bottle of orange juice or more, water if needed to fully submerge salmon. POTATOES: 1.5 – 2 lbs baby potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. ASPARAGUS: 2 lbs asparagus. GARNISH: 1 orange thinly sliced in rounds, half a lemon cut in wedges, chopped parsley. SAUCE: 1/2 cup of Mayo, 1 TBSP Horseradish (or more), 2 TBSP Grainy Dijon mustard (or to taste).
Do you own a roasting pan? I have a big oval one with a lid that was initially used exclusively for my Thanksgiving Turkey. During the summer it’s my go-to pan for poaching salmon. I have a GE Café Stove with an elongated middle burner which I think was really designed for the griddle pan for pancakes and the like. I bought it because I knew it would be perfect for poaching salmon! Don’t worry though, you can just place the pan over two burners on your stove if you don’t have the middle burner and you could actually cook it in the oven too.
So, for this dinner, I took a 2lb side of salmon (serves 6) and put it in a mix of orange juice, white wine, and water. I’m not going to be exact about quantities. If I’ve got a bottle of wine on hand that I’m not going to drink, I’ll throw that in the pan. If I’ve got plenty of OJ, then the poaching liquid will be all wine and orange juice. If I don’t have enough, I’ll add water. No big deal. Anyway, I bring the liquid to a boil first and then place the side of salmon in it, bring it back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, preferably with a lid on, however if it’s fully submerged in the liquid then it’s not necessary. If it’s done cooking before everything else, I’ll just turn it off and let it sit in the warm liquid while the vegetables are cooking. To see if it’s done cooking – stick a knife into the thickest part to see how pink it is inside.
Meanwhile, as for the potatoes, I prefer the baby variety! I’ll leave the tiny ones whole and halve the slightly larger ones. Throw them in a roasting pan, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until they look like they are crispy enough for you!
While it’s totally possible to roast the asparagus, but because the potatoes are roasted, I like to steam it. An inch or so of boiling water underneath a steam basket with a lid, for 5 to around 7 mins depending on the thickness of the spears, should do the trick. Depends on how al dente or soft you like your asparagus.
With everything cooked, it’s time to assemble it on the platter…. Salmon first. In my case, it inevitably breaks up when I transfer it to the platter. That’s why I garnish with sliced orange and parsley to hide the damage. Feel free to drizzle some of the poaching liquid on it too. Then, I pile on the asparagus garnished with sliced lemon, then the roasted baby potatoes. Because the salmon is quite sweet and silky, I love to serve it with a punchy Dijon Horseradish Mayo…literally made up of those 3 ingredients to your liking.
So, there it is! Simple, pretty, with a variety of textures and flavors. My kind of cooking. If you are cooking for a bigger crowd, simply increase the quantities, I often will cook a couple of sides of salmon together in the same pan.
Enjoy! Here’s to a fabulous summer!