With summer fully upon us, it’s time to fire up the stovetop early in the day and enjoy a cold supper the same night or even the next one. For me, the centerpiece of that supper in summer is velvety, cold poached salmon. Wild fish from the Copper River in the Pacific Northwest are currently available in my fish markets, but any wild salmon would fit the bill. The liquid of choice for poaching is a not-too-smoky lapsang souchong tea. There’s no need for a fancy fish poacher. Find a roasting dish that can rest safely on an open burner or span across two burners and that is deep enough to accommodate the filleted side of salmon – and you’re set.
Begin by brewing the tea at normal beverage strength (2 grams of whole-leaf tea per 6 ounces of water), season with salt to taste, and add some coins of peeled fresh ginger root (use about 1 inch of ginger root per pound of fish). Once the tea is brewed, pour it through a fine, meshed sieve into the poaching pan, add salt to taste and the ginger root, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and then carefully place the fish into the liquid, making sure that the liquid covers the fish by an inch. Poach at the barest simmer. A good rule of thumb is to measure the fish at its thickest point and cook for 10 minutes per inch. In other words, if the fish measures 2 inches thick at its thickest point, poach for 20 minutes. Once the fish feels firm to the touch, it’s done. Allow it to cool in the poaching liquid (where it will continue to firm up a bit more) and when cool, with the help of large, flat spatulas, remove the fish in one piece to a serving platter. Peel off and discard the skin and any grayish flesh attached to the filet. Cover well and refrigerate until ready to serve. For an entrée-sized serving, allow 6 ounces of fish per person. A side of salmon netting two pounds will generally serve 6. Depending on the width and thickness of the fish and the dimensions of the poaching vessel, give or take, this size fillet will require approximately 3 quarts of poaching liquid to cover adequately.
Once the fish is properly stored, turn to its bracing accompaniment – wasabi cream. Here’s how to do it. In a large heavy saucepan, bring 12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) of heavy cream and 1 T. good-quality wasabi powder to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool, add salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, and then chill until ready to serve as a sauce for the fish. Note that this sauce will thicken considerably after it is chilled.
You may wish to add crunch to the plate with a dilled cucumber salad. A side of some thinly sliced dark pumpernickel bread would round out the supper plate beautifully.
An important note for tea lovers in the Los Angeles area:
There’s a new restaurant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art called Ray’s, which offers a true California dining experience. Featuring farmer’s market-driven dishes, and even some vegetables and herbs grown right on the museum’s premises, the restaurant is set in an airy plaza with some stunning after-dark views of the architecture of the new Broad wing and Urban Light, the forest of restored vintage street lamps by artist Chris Burden, which faces Wilshire Blvd. On view in the restaurant and worth peering at are two vitrines of mid-19th to mid-20th Century tea cups from the Palevsky family’s collection. What’s more, Chef Kris Morningstar is producing menu items using tea that pay homage to the current retrospective of filmmaker / artist Tim Burton on view through October 31. His film, Alice in Wonderland, serves as the inspiration for one of the chef’s dishes called “White Rabbit with Chai in a Mushroom Forest” that is both delicious and whimsical.