This recipe was inspired by a dish chef Eric Ripert makes at Le Bernardin in New York. The method he uses to cook fish is, in turn, inspired by a classic French technique -- "a l'unilateral" -- in which fish is fried on one side until it is heated all the way through. Cooking the fish in a small amount of water instead of frying is a much more gentle treatment.
There are no firm measurements as to when the fish is cooked, so you will need to use your judgment. Andreas Viestad considers the fish done when the top is warm.
A salmon fillet typically goes from thin to thick, which makes for uneven cooking. You will get the best and most predictable result by trimming the fish to a uniform thickness. That said, don't trim so much that you are wasting lots of cuttings.
This recipe makes a generous amount of puree; you may have some left over.
- 1 pound leeks, white and light-green parts only (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup lightly salted water
- 2 8-ounce, skin-on salmon fillets, pin bones removed
- White pepper
- 1 tablespoon wasabi paste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish
- Fleur de sel (optional)
Cut the leeks into 1/2-inch dice, then place them in a large bowl of cold water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain by lifting the leeks out of the water (do not pour the water through a colander); pat them dry.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add the diced leeks and the garlic. Boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Rinse the salmon and pat it dry, then season with salt and white pepper to taste. Add the salmon skin side down to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Keep an eye on the water; there should be small bubbles but it should not come to a full boil. Cook for 15 minutes, until the fish is warm to the touch on top, depending on the thickness of the fish and the temperature of the water around it. The fish will be pale pink on the outside and a little rosy on the inside; it will be firm to the touch but will flake easily with a fork.
Just before serving, use a slotted spoon to transfer the leeks and garlic to a blender; add the wasabi paste and butter, and pulse to combine until smooth. For a more refined puree, place a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and use a spoon to press the puree through the mesh. Add the chives and use a fork to mix until just incorporated.
Divide the puree between individual plates and place the salmon on top of each serving; sprinkle the fish with chives and fleur de sel (a French sea salt), if desired. Serve immediately.
Adapted by Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad.
Tested by Judy Sarasohn.
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