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 (½ 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.