Poaching fish in the oven guarantees evenly cooked, super moist, delicious results. Start off on the stove top to sauté the aromatics and get things bubbling, then pop the skillet into the oven to finish cooking. Using parchment paper as the “lid” (known as a cartouche) allows just enough of the poaching liquid to evaporate, leaving you with a concentrated sauce base, to which butter is added for silky richness. Roasted piquillo peppers from the Navarre region in Spain lend a slightly smoky-sweet flavor and are worth seeking out, but roasted red bell peppers work well too.
- 1½ pounds salmon fillets, pin bones and skin removed, cut into 4 pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small lemon, thinly sliced crosswise, seeds removed
- 1 cup thinly sliced leek, white and pale green parts, washed well
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup very thinly sliced piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- Crusty bread for serving
PREP THE PARCHMENT
Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the center position. Season the salmon all over with salt and pepper. Cut a sheet of parchment into a 12-inch round (it should fit snugly into a 12-inch skillet). Fold it into quarters and snip 1/2 inch from the pointed tip. Unfold and set aside.
ROAST THE SALMON
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter along with the oil. When the foam subsides, add the lemon and cook until heated, about 1 minute. Turn the lemon slices and stir in the leeks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs and top with the salmon. Pour the wine around the salmon, place the parchment circle on top and bring to a simmer. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the fish is opaque and just flakes around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes depending on thickness.
MAKE THE SAUCE
Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the salmon to a platter. Cover the salmon with the parchment to keep warm. Carefully transfer the hot skillet to the stove and bring the pan juices to a gentle simmer over low heat. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted and the sauce is creamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the peppers and parsley.
Return the salmon to the skillet and garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty bread.
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Pair it Up
Cook with a wine you’d want to drink. In this case, a buttery unoaked chardonnay is just the ticket.
Level it Up
Season the salmon with a pinch of hot or sweet Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika from the Spanish La Vera region) for a subtle smoky flavor.
Change it Up
Turn any leftover salmon and sauce into a luscious bisque. Discard the lemon slices, then put the sauce into a saucepan along with some fish or chicken broth and a touch of cream and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon in pieces and simmer until heated through.
Change it Up
To make this more keto-friendly, skip the bread and add ¼ cup of heavy cream along with the butter for added richness.
Know Your Cook
Culinary Director Grace Parisi is a cook, writer and cookbook author. Formerly the Senior Test Kitchen Editor at Food & Wine Magazine and Executive Food Director at TimeInc Books, her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Health, O Magazine, Epicurious, Fitness, Today, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and many more. She’s the author of more than 6 books, among them The Portlandia Cookbook and Get Saucy, which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook.