A perfect lunch upon arrival in West Palm Beach, photo by Donna

A week’s vacation in West Palm—a week that concluded with blue skies, beach, pool food, fruity rum drinks—began with an unexpectedly fine lunch made by my dear, hard-working, fun-loving, enormously generous mum.

We’d risen early, left gloomy Cleveland Heights in time to drop the dog off at Metrobarks, arrived at PBI, rented a stupid little Chevy that caused nothing but arguments until it became funny, and arrived at Mom’s by lunchtime.  She had glasses of cold white wine and the above meal waiting for us. It was such a lovely spread, Donna was immediately moved to take it out onto the sunny balcony for a couple quick snapshots with the Lumix.

It’s a perfect example of how to put together a quick meal to share, most things done ahead, some bought, some made, all prepared in advance.

Salmon and shrimp poached and chilled (see below), asparagus boiled and shocked (gorgeous fatties that must have come from California), potato salad with scallions, an edamame salad (she bought these last two), and greens.  Mom was most proud that she’d made her own mayo, broken it, then fixed it, after a quick consult with Ratio (few acts are so empowering in the kitchen as showing a mayonnaise who’s boss).  Mayo worked with both the shrimp and asparagus; she had creamy dill sauce for the salmon.  All of it presented family style and shared overlooking sprawling opulent Palm Beach and the sparkling sapphire of Lake Worth (as FSF would have it).

It pointed up to me what a pleasure a simple cold lunch could be, after 6 hours of travel, a perfect way to start a week away from home.  Thanks, Mom, you’re the best!

How To Poach Salmon:

Poaching salmon is perhaps the easiest way to cook this fish if you’re fish challenged but love salmon.  You can use the same “ouch-hot” method Chef Pardus demonstrated in this video: How To Poach Shrimp.  Simply bring water to the point that it’s too hot to touch but not boiling; if you have an instant read thermometer, this will be about 160 to 180 degrees F. (70 to 80 degrees C.), and lower your salmon into the water (it should be completely submerged).  Remove it with a slotted spatula when it’s done, usually about 7 to 10 minutes.  If you like rare or medium-rare salmon, it should have plenty of give; if you like it fully cooked through, remove it when it’s firm.  If you’re uncertain, delicately survey a part of the interior with a pairing knife.  The most precise way of gauging doneness is with an instant read thermometer. For rare it should read about 120 degrees F. (50 degrees C.), for medium 130 degrees F. (54 degress C.), and for fully cooked, 140 degrees F. (60 degrees C.). If I’m serving it immediately, I prefer it rare to medium rare; if I’m serving it cold, I prefer it fully cooked.

To enhance the flavor (and I highly recommend this), turn your water into what’s called a court bouillon, French for quick stock.  Add to your water sliced onion, a couple bay leaves, enough salt that the water tastes seasoned (1/2 to 1 teaspoon, or .25 ounces per quart of liquid), a cup of white wine and/or the juice of 2 lemons for every quart of water, and any other aromatics you may want, bring it to a simmer, then turn down the heat so that it remains hot but is no longer simmering, and poach the salmon as desired.

If you’re serving it cold, remove the salmon from the water to a plate lined with a paper towel, cover it with a cool damp paper towel and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.


26 Wonderful responses to “Poached Salmon Lunch, with Asparagus,
Shrimp and Salads”

  • merry jennifer

    Such a lovely lunch your mom made. It’s my dream that one day my kids will be proud of the meals that I make for them. Right now it’s hit or miss, but I attribute that to the fact that they are 6 and 3. Making kid-friendly menus is always a challenge. Love that your mom is still doing it!

  • caroline

    How uncanny– I was just thinking I should do more fish poaching, after having some excellent tilapia at a wedding. Would you recommend the same court bouillon for delicate white fish? It’s so easy to overdo it and end up with fish that tastes entirely like lemon or garlic. Or is it better to keep the poached white fish “pure” and make some kind of light sauce?

  • Martha

    Way to go, mom!! All looks delicious, and quite the presentation! (I wonder if having a chef son creates any self-induced pressure!) I might add that your mom is quite pretty and youthful looking. That’s some nice real estate she’s selling, too!

  • Marc

    Just found your site through Modern Paleo.

    Being a Naples resident, I wish I had known you were in Naples. Was it a private event?

    I look foward to reading more of your site.
    I’m a self (grandma and grandpa taught me) taught chef. Was cooking when I was 8, always thought I was going to be a chef and then life had other plans. I’ve re-discovered my love though….I’m happiest and at peace when I do 😉

    Mum’s lunch looks wonderful.


  • Rhonda

    Beautiful lunch from a beautiful mother. Wow, she really does look like January Jones!

  • Casey Angelova

    My mom only knows how to cook with frozen vegetables, so you should you be proud of your Mama!
    I think I need to make some mayo. Is it at all feasible to make mayo with out the yolks?

  • lux

    I know I’m going to get shouted down for this but I truly hate mayo & avoid it whenever possible. It’s gross, flavorless, and slimy as far as I am concerned.

    • Kevin

      Maybe you just need to cut it with some fresh lemon juice and minced garlic, or with the salmon dish – try some fresh dill mixed in. Try making your own some time as you can use lots of different oils and multiple things to flavor it with.

    • The FoodNinja

      Freshly homemade mayonnaise is assuredly not the same thing as the devil phlegm in the supermarket jar. Seriously, they’re night and day.

    • Victoria


      Maybe you should make some homemade aoili and eat it with this same lunch – except scratch the potato salad and steam some lovely waxy potato halves to dip in tyour delicious sauce.

      That might turn the tide for you.

  • Susan

    What a lovely, welcoming lunch. My kids are local and drop by unannounced most of the time, so I don’t have things so nicely prepared unless it’s a holiday and I am expecting them. Mostly they just fling open the fridge, hands on the doors and poke through the rubble of goodies past! The last family meal where they were expected, I had nibbles set up similarly as I like to serve a single large platter with a variety of goodies. It’s so enticing to the eye and yet so easy on the host.

    Lucky you, to have a Mom to visit. My daughter, on parting one evening, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked into my eyes and with great seriousness said, “As anxious as I was get the hell out of here when I was 19, I love coming by to get to be the kid again..once in a while!” I loved every word of it!

  • lo

    Light, fresh, perfect. This is one of those meals that shows just how wonderful a few simple, well-prepared ingredients can be.

  • lisadelrio

    That looks so good. Oh, how I miss warm weather food. It’s almost time, though. Our asparagus have just started to come up today!

  • allen

    You are one lucky son! That looks great, and no bacon, so she’s looking out for you, and making me hungry.

  • Victoria

    How beautiful (and scrumptious, I am sure).

    If Donna had captured you and your mom, it would have been just like a Renoir.

    You mean a Panasonic digital hand-held camera????????

  • bunkycooks

    What a lovely, simple lunch. You do not always have to tear up the kitchen to have a delicious meal!

    If we ever decide to relocate to that part of FL, I will be sure to give your mom a call!

  • deb

    Anytime your Mom wants to practice, let me know I live in WPB !! It looks amazing and I will have to try and learn how to poach fish. I was always afraid I would mess it up.

  • caroline

    Last night I used your tips to poach some striped bass that my father had caught and given to me. I threw a halved onion, kosher salt, a squeeze of lemon, and some torn bay leaves into the water, and when the fish was done I used the poaching liquid to blanch vegetables. Such a lovely, light meal, and so quick to make!

  • luis

    I did poach the shrimp just as chef Pardus showed us…but then I sauteed them in olive oil with garlic…just to get the outside more textured and less waterlogged. Don’t know.. something about cooking in just water/broth/stock that doesn’t thrill me..
    The shrimp done that way are killer great eats… just that roll around the hot skillet for a few seconds to pick up the olive oil and the garlic does it.
    Bet the same applies to the Salmon. In either case you can not screw this one up. But again just poaching or steaming the asparagus…wouldn’t be my first choice. Of course it has to be delicate and crunchy to go with the poached salmon… I can see it… but where is the crusty bread?

  • lacey in ak

    I just poached some fresh winter white king salmon here in Juneau, AK. Michael- I hope you can get your hands on some sometime, because it is so special. It’s super fatty and delicate, but rich, and I think ideal for poaching. My only problem was that the fillets were too thick in the middle and I ended up having some that was too raw for my companions’ taste. I think next time I’ll cut into thick even strips. Thank you for the idea, though. I look forward to experimenting this summer when sockeyes start running.