How Poaching Fish (like Salmon) in Olive Oil Got Popular (Thank Ms. Wolfert!)

Paula Wolfert was among the first food gurus in this country to poach salmon and halibut in extra virgin olive oil. The noted cookbook author and food anthropologist recalls years ago visiting the Spanish island of Mallorca, where she watched a chef simmer pieces of fish and shellfish in quarts of olive oil. That encounter helped to bring the cooking concept stateside, where it has become popular. (Click here to see Paula Wolfert’s recipe for salmon poached in extra virgin olive oil.)

poaching fish
Photo courtesy of Christopher Hirsheimer (http://thecanalhouse.com/)

In her book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen (John Wiley & Sons, 2003), where the  salmon recipe featured here appears, Paula recounts watching the chef poach the seafood in the olive oil:

“I was fascinated by the way he cooked each variety for a different length of time and at a low temperature to achieve a glistening, almost translucent, texture and an incredible succulence. In no case did this lengthy, slow simmering produce overcooked fish.”

Paula notes that the chef told her that because the oil never rises above 155 degrees Fahrenheit it can be reused again and again, including in fish salads or for poaching more fish. The oil will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Salmon is a perfect fish to poach in extra virgin olive oil. It already tastes great – and poaching it gently in a good olive oil improves the flavor and ensures a luscious flavor.

For her recipe, Paula recommends serving the salmon with a sharp, acidic salad such as arugula with oranges.  (Click here to see the salmon recipe.)

Too see other recipes from the Mediterranean, please see our May eNewsletter, which showcases the cuisine of that region.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch