Orchard Profiles

Becoming Mrs. Lawlor

I spent the better part of the morning lingering over words.  Old words.  Words I’d written over the past three years; words that dripped occasionally, like an abandoned leaky faucet, but coursed through my veins like a waterfall.  It’s difficult to take a walk down memory lane, when the memories can be so intense and painful.  I’ve read a bit about traumatic experiences lately, and learned that walking down memory lane, summoning old feelings, dousing oneself with old expired flames, can be just as traumatic as the original experience.  But yet I can’t help the urge to analyze, and ponder over the state I was once in.  Pain can give birth to things, beautiful and raw-- or terrible and stale.  My pain birthed new life, in me, and in my relationship with my husband.  Our pain, I should say.  

I read back to something I wrote after my first miscarriage.  I irrationally feared "an endless string of miscarriages".  And the most heartening, the fear that I was not successfully achieving pregnancy because "there was something else I was supposed to be doing" - like fate pressing down on my soul.  And then I think of that seemingly endless string of losses, that I am sorry to say, I did walk through.  And I think of all that I ended up ‘getting done’.  I think of Girl Meets Dirt, once just a little notion in my head, a cheeky little phrase to accompany my writing.  I stand in my storage room and marvel at the endless boxes, labeled and ready to be tucked into, all made by my hands, conceived in my mind, during a time where pain was my most intimate friend.  I gave birth to something while struggling to stay pregnant all these years: I gave birth to a new vision of myself, someone who was finally rooted, engaged in an enterprise that enlivened the soul, rather than deflated it. 

My second loss paralyzed me.  The words I scribbled down back then were laced with confusion, sadness, and the threat of depression:

"so much can happen in one week. they tell you your baby has not progressed. a deep moan wells up inside of you. a little piece of your heart cracks. you see fissures everywhere; this cannot be. again. you waited 8 long months for the hope of a January baby, snow bunny, beacon in the dark, and then the light went out. you grappled, scrounged, clawed your way up and 7 more long months later, over analyzing your eating habits, running habits, sexual intercourse habits, fell pregnant once a wonderful time again. but so much can happen in one week. for 7 months, nothing, and then a brief sojourn with warm summer trade winds makes everything even keeled again.

you are losing this baby too..it is deafeningly still. you hear the rumble of each ferry, shuffling people forward or backwards, returning to something, someone...or leaving... I cannot tell any longer whether they are coming or whether they are going. long stretches of silence, and then a rumble. the enormity of winter aches in my bones."

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I stopped writing for a long time after that.  I couldn’t be authentic without expressing what was so deeply burrowed under my skin, and threatening to define me.  And then we had a third loss, and somehow I found a sliver of my voice again, cracking amidst the weeds.  I threw myself into the garden, into springtime and seedlings and baby chickens and promise.  I cleansed in Mountain Lake, after running furiously around it, sweating out my demons.  I thought optimism was the goal, the magic pill for a better outcome.  I thought: just get through this, things will look up.  And I almost believed it.  Until our 4th loss two days before my little sister’s wedding.  How does one describe what it feels like to be crushed under the weight of your own anxiety?  We had no choice but to step away.  The doctors could give us no answers and we were not prepared to forge on.  We were no longer strong.  It was time to heal, or try to.  We spent 6 months actively preventing pregnancy, which, if you’ve ever grappled with infertility or pregnancy loss, is an almost inconceivable predicament.  But we knew that we couldn’t get pregnant again.  At least not yet.  We had work to do.

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It was during this time that I launched Girl Meets Dirt Archipelago Preserves.  I put my head down and my chin up and built a business from scratch - hand picked fruit, sugar, and a squeeze of lemon.  I finally DID what I said I was going to do, after quitting my Wall Street job and moving across the country to an island in the middle of nowhere.  Gerry and I ran a 25k together up Mt. Constitution.  We planned a belated honeymoon trip to Baja.  We did everything we could to make our lives full, without that maternal & paternal longing for fullness we hadn’t been able to conquer.  I started doing regular acupuncture, and even began to enjoy my morning tonic of Chinese herbs.  Swimming where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific, I let the waves lull me into oblivion, imagining myself a fish, floating, floating, floating.  I tried desperately not to care.  Gerry and I started smiling at one another again.  We made love just because.  

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I didn’t know then that I was nourishing an egg, with salt water and sand.  We came home with something like hope.  Something like peace, but not quite.  We felt ready for one more go with our demons and decided to try to make a baby once again.  We were shocked to find ourselves immediately pregnant.  And even more shocked to have encouraging initial blood results.  We thought it was fate -- that elusive notion we couldn’t yet dispose of.  I held on to that baby, or that thought of a baby, until I was 7 weeks pregnant.  And then I bled.  Furiously.  

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This is when we gave up.  We had foolishly believed that perseverance would yield a miracle and that our stubborn belief that our bodies could do this naturally was rooted in some twisted, yet cosmic destiny.  We crumbled.  We started taking a hard look at advanced reproductive technologies like IVF with pre-genetic screening (PGS) with the hope that screening our embryos would prevent us from implanting genetically compromised ones.  We felt conflicted.  We weren’t sure.  We didn’t know if we could pursue an invasive path with the risk we’d lose it in the end anyway.  Our doctors gave us no promises.  They had suggestions, and alternatives, but none dared to offer answers.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  The same advice we’d received about our multiple losses and trying again.  Despite our grim history, the fuzzy statistics still insisted that we could deliver to term a healthy baby with a chance of somewhere between 50-60% on a subsequent, non-assisted pregnancy.  But after 5 losses, we felt like outliers.  We decided to take an assisted step with fertility drugs, give that a month or two, and then proceed to IVF with PGS.  We were waiting for my next period to come after the miscarriage so that we could start. 

But it never came. 

When you have five losses, you think you might start to lose count, to blur the memory of loss.  But I have retained every last detail, every date, where I was, how it happened, how my husband held me, how my friends came to my side, how my mother nursed me -- and how my community embraced me.  I have been open about our journey because I can’t imagine keeping it in.  I can’t imagine having walked this road alone, without a network of love to cradle us.  

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And this is why I owed it to you, to not tell you glibly, but to offer you our story, fraught with heaviness, but laced with light -- and even goodness.  We are pregnant with our miracle baby.  We are pregnant with the baby that we so stubbornly committed ourselves to and nearly gave up on.  We are pregnant with a child that will never be able to comprehend how very much he or she was wanted, and longed for, and thought about in the making.  We are pregnant with a child who has already expanded and enriched our lives, our capacity for love, and our capacity for forgiveness and healing. 

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This journey has left me numerous times questioning my faith -- and I hesitate to say it has crushed it.  But there is another kind of faith it has bolstered: my faith in humankind, in the capacity of love to assuage the challenges we all share, defined by different circumstances.  I don’t have a message to offer you - those struggling still with infertility, with loss, with depression, with addiction, with any battle that seems uncontrollable.  But I will offer this:  our baby is due to enter this world on Christmas Day, of all the 365 possible days.  There are gifts out there for all of us; sometimes it takes a painful road of searching to unwrap them.  We are deeply grateful, for this gift, and for all of you, who’ve loved us and squeezed us and kept us in your thoughts. 

And now, maybe-- just maybe-- we can celebrate.  We expect a very, Merry Christmas. 


Tattletales: Rustic Farm Egg Quiche with Coho Salmon & Chive

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On Troller Point's boat, the F/V Ocean Oasis, there are 4 coil shaped levers set over the rigging lines.  The captain and deckhands watch the levers for the slightest bit of movement, indicating a fish may have latched onto the lewer deep in the ocean below.  They're called tattletales; fitting for the simple instruments that spill the beans on the fish waiting below.  But it's not as simple as it seems.  The movements are small, subtle, nuanced.  It takes a trained eye to distinguish between one indicating a caught salmon, and one moved by the wind or rippling or sloshing waves.  This quiche on the other hand, takes far less training.  

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Things aren't always as they seem.  Quiche is one of those homey recipes I love having in my back pocket.  It's my go-to in a pinch - if I find out guests are coming over for lunch the morning of, or if I want something I can make ahead of time - I call on quiche.  If I'm even more pinched for time, enter the frittata - which for me, is the quiche below sans the crust.  Ideally I'd serve it with some crusty bread and a salad mixed from whatever was fresh in the garden (a handful of bright herbs dressed in salt & olive oil do wonders).  But if you have time - make your own crust (always make extra to freeze), and call it quiche.  If it weren't for all the rich omega-3's in the filling I'd probably eat it alone.  Or roll it out thin, spread on a bit of quince marmalade, sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake.  Topped with thick greek yogurt I might even call it breakfast.  

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This is one of those recipes that is a canvas - for whatever bits and bobs you have in your garden, on the windowsill, or produce drawer.  Salmon pairs nicely with numerous alliums.  Chives could easily be substituted with leeks, shallots, or if you're lucky enough, the thinnest strands of green garlic.  The goat cheese could be cream cheese, or left out and served with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.  Nothing nuanced, subtle, or complicated about it.  Just good, simple, fresh food.  I'll leave the nuances to the tattletales. 

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Rustic Farm Egg Quiche with Coho Salmon & Chives

Quiche is quintessential brunch fare in my book.  It's my favorite thing to prepare when family is in town as it's easily made in advance and great after it sits for a bit.  You can make it even easier (and gluten free) by nixing the pastry shell and preparing it in a skillet as a frittata.  Be sure to heavily butter or oil the pan before pouring in the egg mixture if you go this route.  Otherwise bake as indicated below.  

Serves 5-6

1/2 pate brisee recipe below (par-baked), or prepared tart/pie shell

4 oz salmon trimmings

5 farm fresh eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup loosely packed finely chopped chives

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Freshly ground black pepper

If you're baking your own pastry shell, follow the recipe below, using a 9-inch round pie pan.  While you are par-baking the shell, place the salmon trimmings on a piece of foil with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 6 minutes, or until just cooked.  Remove from the oven and flake into pieces.  

Leave the oven on or preheat to 350 degrees if you're using a prepared shell.  Beat together the eggs in a bowl with the cream and salt.  Add the chives and salmon.  Pour into pie shell and dot evenly with goat cheese.  Finish with a few cracks of black pepper.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until set in the center, and puffed and brown.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.         

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Pate Brisee Dough

Makes 1 double sided crust or two 9-10 inch tart shells (freeze extra dough by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap)

1 cup unsalted butter (cold - this is key)

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tspn salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Cut up cold butter into small cubes (I aim for 16 from one stick).  Mix salt into flour.  Toss in salted flour and work with your fingertips as little as possible to blend in the flour.  Don't fuss about getting even crumbles- it's fine to have some sandy bits and some chunky bits- that's what makes the crust flaky.

Mix in cold water, just enough to pull the butter and flour mixture together, and quickly mound together until it just holds.  Don't overwork the dough.  If it doesn't look perfect that's totally fine, you can patch it up with a little water once in the shell.  If you have time, chill the dough in the refrigerator before rolling (wrap tightly in plastic wrap).  Overnight is fine if you want to prepare in advance, but even 30 minutes helps.

Now it's time to roll out the dough.  If you've made the recipe as above, reserve half the dough and freeze.  You'll only need half for the tart shell.  Dust flour on the rolling surface (a silpat mat is genius), and quickly (this is all about working the dough as little as possible), roll out the dough into a shape that will accommodate your pan.  Once rolled out, fold the dough over your hand for easy transporting into the shell.  Press into the shell and trim off any excess.  Scrunch the edge in a nice pattern or press with the tines of a fork.  Pop in the freezer for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

To par-bake: Line the shell with foil or parchment paper and cover with pastry weights, rice, or dried beans.  Bake the shell for 15 minutes on the middle rack.  Remove from oven and remove foil & weights.  Return to oven and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes, covering the edges with foil if they start to brown too much.   

Relax. The hard part is over.  If you're all about ease, buy a premade shell, but it's not going to be quite the same.  Something about a homemade crust that makes it for me. Try it once.

Dressed in Butter, Topped with Spring: Pan Seared Coho with Chervil Butter Sauce & Sorrel Herb Salad

I may or may not be just a little obsessed with these gorgeous vacuum sealed slabs of Northwest gorgeousness from Troller Point Fisheries.  That and the chervil, delicately taking over my garden right now.  It's finally spring here at the homestead- the wisteria has buds, the peonies are growing- daffodils everywhere - green grass ! And green, green, green all over the garden.  The garden was, as it usually is, my inspiration for this dish, which comes together beautifully for company, but is relatively easy to prepare.  The herb salad cuts richness of the buerre-blanc, and is the perfect antidote to the crispy salmon skin.  

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I'm a recent convert to the salmon skin - proof it's never too late.  Through all my years of eating salmon I thought of it as no more than a delicious treat for the pups (blasphemy!)  But at some point earlier this year- perhaps after watching my friend's 5 year old daughter climb on the table to get her hands on the salmon skin - I decided it was time to reconsider.  I'm glad I did.  The trick is getting the skin crispy, and when you do, you'll be rewarded with soft, lightly flakey flesh with a crispy, savory, salt studded crust.  

Skin like this is the perfect foil for butter (which, apparently people are whizzing into their coffees these days).  I stand completely unabashedly proud of my butter habit.  And the fish deserve it.  One by one they're brought into the boat, carefully cleaned and processed, and quickly frozen to seal in the sea salty moisture.  Give them butter.  Give them loads of butter.

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And cut it with herbs.  If an herb salad sounds foreign to you, as the salmon skin once did, reconsider.  Salad doesn't have to mean lettuce.  In fact, tossing out the lettuce altogether and showering your salmon (or steak, or pork, or beans) with a handful of mixed herbs tossed in vinaigrette will take it to another level.  I'm salivating thinking of the juicy steaks I enjoyed in Argentina, dressed with parsley and vinegar chimichurri.  If you don't have access to delicate anise-scented chervil (it's easy to grow), you can substitute parsley, or ideally, parsley with a bit of tarragon.  The sorrel is hard to replicate- it looks similar to spinach but it's somewhat pungently acidic, from oxalic acid.  You can substitute spinach and extra lemon juice.  If all else fails and herbs evade you, toss a bit of arugula in lemon and olive oil and call it a day.       

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I love how bright and colorful this dish is - evocative of spring but also a testament to the fish.  The fishermen tell me that Coho salmon like colorful lewers and require their own set of special gear to attract them.  I hope I've done them justice, dressed in butter, and topped with spring.    

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Pan Seared Coho with Chervil Butter Sauce & Sorrel Herb Salad

Pan searing is a great way to showcase all the delicious bits of the salmon - particularly the skin, which is nearly as good as the fish itself when seared to a crisp.  Cooking the salmon with the skin-on also insulates the less fatty coho from overcooking.  The buttery sauce helps balance the meatier fish (as opposed to King) and the herb salad adds acid, dimension, and freshness.  I indulged and served over creamy leeks (recipe below) that had overwintered nicely in my garden but a bed of buttery mashed potatoes would do just fine.  

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Serves 4

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1/2 cup chervil leaves

 

2 tablespoons high heat oil (I used avocado)

1 1lb 8oz Coho salmon side cut into 4 5oz filets (net weight after trimming was alb 4oz)

 

3 tablespoons sorrel leaves, stems removed, cut in thin chiffonade

2 cups chervil leaves, stems removed, lightly packed

1/4 cup chives, cut to about 1/2 inch length

3 1/2 tablespoons tangelo juice (orange or grapefruit can be substituted)

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare your salmon.  If you're using a whole side, you may want to trim it a bit as illustrated in the photo above.  Trim the tail and top, and the long strip of belly meat, so that you have 4 even portioned filets.  The trimmings are wonderful the next day in a scramble or Rustic Farm Egg Quiche with Salmon & Chives -whatever you do, don't waste them, they're delicious.  Check the filets for pin bones- if you're using Troller Point salmon, you're unlikely to find them.  Season the filets generously with medium coarse or flaked salt and pepper if you desire.  Set aside while you prepare ingredients for the sauce and herb salad. 

Combine the sorrel, chervil, and chives in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the tangelo juice, lemon juice, salt and honey.  Drizzle in the oil and whisk to emulsify.  Dress the salad lightly and set aside somewhere cool.

Start your sauce by combining the wine, shallots, lemon juice and salt in a small saucepan and heat to a simmer.  Cook until reduced by half and remove from heat and set aside.  

Preheat a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Return to your salmon and press between paper towels to make sure they are extremely dry.  Add the oil to the pan and heat until shimmery and almost smoking.  Once your oil is very hot, slide in the salmon filets skin side down (don't allow them to touch if possible), and immediately turn the heat down to medium low.  The switch to low heat is key - and will prevent the fish from cooking too fast and expressing all the white albumen.  Be sure to press down on each filet with a flat spatula for the first 1-2 minutes, but don't move them around.  This will help to encourage crispiness and prevent the skin from curling up and cooking unevenly.  If you have a thermometer, now is a good time to pull it out.  

Once the skin is nice and crispy (about 6 minutes --a good indicator is when it starts to move easily around the pan), you'll flip the filets for a final minute sear on the other side.  If you like your salmon medium-rare, you're aiming for an internal temperature of about 115-120 degrees when taken off the heat- keeping in mind the fish will continue to cook somewhat after being removed.  I like my salmon a little more done and prefer to cook to about 125 degrees but that's your call.  Don't let it cook beyond 130 degrees otherwise you'll have a filet full of white albumen with chalky meat.  Err on the side of undercooking if you're worried- you can always give it a quick sear to cook it more.  Once your salmon is done, set it aside on a towel lined plate to rest.  

Finish your sauce.  Return the wine reduction to a simmer- and whisk in the butter in small pieces.  Pour the sauce in a blender or food processor along with the chervil and blend until smooth.  Give the sauce a minute to rest -- it will thicken as the butter cools.  Serve, spooned over the salmon (skin side up), and drizzled on the plate.  Top with a generous handful of herb salad.  

Cream Braised Leeks

Serves 4 as a small side dish

1/2 cup cream

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

2 lbs leeks, ends and dark green parts trimmed, cut lengthwise into quarters

Squeeze of lemon

Salt & pepper

Clean your leeks well in a bowl of water.  If you've trimmed and sliced them already, this will be a cinch.  If not, you'll want to at least slice them lengthwise in half before washing in order to get out any bits of dirt that lodged in while growing.  Strain them to dry (a little wet is fine).  Lay leeks flat in a 9-12-inch sauté pan.  Cover with cream, water and butter.  Bring to a boil and then quickly reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring gently once to distribute the butter, until the leeks are tender and the cream has reduced down by at least half.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  

 

Next up: Rustic Farm Egg Quiche with Salmon & Chives

Home to Spawn: Spring Herb Slow Poached Wild Coho Salmon

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She was never very good with details -- how thinly the onions should be sliced, how long to squeeze the out of season lemon for; the dribble of most meals inevitably on her just cleaned shirt.  She peppered a recipe with unanswered questions, prompting me always to ask -- what about the butter, mom?  "Oh yes, I forgot the butter.  You know about the butter, just add the butter!"  Like coming home with a straight-A report card, she'd say, matter of fact: "Good job Audra.  Did you make your bed this morning?"

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None of that was crucial.  Bootstrapping.  My mother taught me to pull myself up by my own britches.  To know when to add that butter-- or to figure it out myself.  To get straight A's for me, and no one else.  And so it is with her recipes:  filet of salmon, a lemon or two, an onion, & wine (white, of course).  Oh, and that butter too.  Reading her instructions is like coming home to spawn -- the work has just begun.  

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The salmon should be firm, with shiny scales, the salt from the open sea washed off by a long run up one of our formerly raging Northwest rivers.  They're still a little angry, like mom, on a good day, when three kids and a traveling husband didn't seem quite so overwhelming.  She'd walk in the door and greet our after school faces with Skittles, or a trifecta of Charleston Chews -- one double chocolate, one vanilla, and one strawberry.  If she was feeling particularly generous, a Mamba bar for each, to goad us into silence with sugar. 

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I never had a birthday without salmon, rich hollandaise pooled atop, asparagus on the side.  Mom would draw out the sweetness of the fish with citrus rounds, and cut it with onion, sliced and sprinkled haphazardly around.  Those few nubs of butter would be scattered around atop the fish, and wine poured generously over it -- like the thick crumb of her buttery coffee cake.  A final seasoning with salt and pepper and into a preheated oven it went.  She'd spend what seemed like just a moment at the stove, cracking eggs, melting butter, squeezing more lemon, and that luscious perfectly viscous hollandaise would be ready for me to spoon over the top.  I still marvel at the ease at which she made it; I suppose she has me to credit for the practice.  

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And I have her to credit for so much else.  For giving me the courage to carve my life as I like, not as she, or anyone else wished it to be.  To look at a recipe, take notes, add, improvise, question, and take it in an entirely different direction.  But also to appreciate the simple things - like baked or poached salmon.  The good, solid recipes - or simply someone's technique, sharpened by time and good tasters.  For good, wild ingredients.  Beautiful, hook and line caught salmon, fished by someone whose care for the fish at sea and aboard shows the utmost respect- for the fish, for the sea, and for the lives of all the people and fisherman who will follow him, also hungry for fish.  

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So bake on, fry on, sear on, & poach.  Like my mother, every night avoiding boxes and mixes, reaching for clippings from the garden, salmon caught by my father, to give us a hot, nourishing, & simple, scratch cooked meal.  And when you sit down to eat, pick up your fork, and come home.  Even for a little bit, and let yourself be nourished.  Cheers to yourself, even if sometimes it seems that no one appreciates you -- they do indeed.  The evidence is on their plate- quite empty by now.  You'll be ready to pull yourself up again in no time -- just as mom intended.

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Spring Herb Slow Poached Wild Coho Salmon

This is the first of three salmon inspired recipes, perfect for spring and all the buds of green in the garden and the market.  We're blessed with easy access to world-class seafood, caught sustainably with hook and line in Alaska by Troller Point Fisheries, a family run company based on Orcas.  They flash freeze all their seafood within an hour of bringing it aboard- after tediously cleaning and carefully pressure bleeding the fish for the best quality (a method unrivaled by inferior net caught fish and farms).  They host dock sales around the region - so if you're Washington local, check them out.  If not, they'll happily ship the highest quality 10lb boxes of individually packed filets you can find anywhere, to your doorstep.  

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These recipes use the more economical Coho 'sides'.  These are whole sides of fish filet, perfect for a family or creating an impressive meal for guests.  Don't get me wrong, I have a freezer full of perfectly portioned amazing King and Coho filets, great for weeknights, but the sides are my go-to for entertaining.  You can leave them whole, or portion them out yourself into filets and use the 'extras' for other recipes (like the Coho Salmon & Chive Farm Egg Quiche I'll show you later this week).  You can also substitute wild King salmon if you like, but these are tailored for the slightly more flavorful, less fatty Coho (which means I'm shameless with the butter sauce).    

I love this recipe for its flexibility and simplicity.  It's also the perfect showcase for flawless, high quality fish.  There are no bells & whistles.  It's simple, fresh, and can be made ahead of time - making it great for entertaining.  You can be flexible with the herbs -- I used what's fresh and growing in my garden, but feel free to play around. 

Serves 4-5

3 cups water

2 bay laurel leaves (dried or fresh)

1 rib celery (preferably an inner rib with leaves)

8 sprigs mixed spring herbs (I used chervil, lemon thyme, and tarragon -- parsley is a nice substitute for the chervil if you have a hard time finding it but it does add a nice anise scent)

1 1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 lemon (juice and zest)

3/4 teaspoon salt plus additional for seasoning salmon

1 1/2 lbs wild Coho salmon side, skin-on (you can substitute filets)

Extra herbs for garnish.

Herbed Butter Sauce for serving (optional, recipe below)

If you have a long gratin dish that is stovetop safe, use it.  Otherwise a large dutch oven or deep fry pan will also work.  Bring water and aromatics/herbs to a boil in the pan just mentioned.  Once boiling, remove from the heat, cover with foil or a lid and let steep for 10 minutes.  After steeping, add wine, lemon juice, zest and salt.  Allow to cool at least another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the salmon with about 1/2 teaspoon flaked or semi-coarse salt and a grind of fresh pepper.  If needed, trim the salmon slightly to fit in your pan.  If you're using a side, you can shave off or trim the sinewy layer over the belly fat (or leave as is).  Any trimmings you can cook later or set it aside for a salmon scramble the next morning.

At this stage you can either proceed with cooking the fish, or refrigerate the herb stock until you're ready.  Either way, start with the stock at room temperature.  Slide the fish into the pan, skin side down, making sure it is completely covered with liquid.  If not, add additional water or wine.  If you add more than a 1/2 cup, add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  

Place the pan with stock and fish over a medium low burner (low if your stove is hot) and very slowly cook the fish - spooning liquid over the top if it becomes unsubmerged.  If you start to see white fat right off the bat, turn down the heat.  The skin helps to insulate the fish from cooking too quickly -- therefore if you are using fish without the skin, be extra careful to make sure the heat is low and cook for less time.  From the time you start the heat to the time the fish is done should be no more than 8-10 minutes (with skin) - but be careful not to overcook if your heat is strong.  Do not let the mixture boil - it should be just below a simmer by the time the fish is ready.  Keep in mind your fish will continue cooking after you turn off the heat so err on the side of undercooking.  

While the fish is resting make the butter sauce using the herb stock.  Garnish with a small handful of roughly torn herbs.  Serve with cous cous, farro salad, or roasted potatoes, and the veloute sauce on the side .   

*Fish can be made several hours or a day ahead and stored in its broth in the refrigerator.  Warm gently in the broth over the stovetop prior to serving. 

Herbed Butter Sauce    

This simple butter sauce, known as a veloute, is as easy as it gets for pan sauce.  You're making a simple butter/flour roux and whisking in the leftover stock from cooking the fish.  I figure you've already done the work making a gorgeous stock, why not max out the benefits with a sauce.  Either way, don't discard the broth -freeze it or refrigerate for a risotto or fish chowder.  

1 1/2 cup poaching liquid

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

Lemon

Reduce the poaching liquid by about half by boiling it over high heat.  Meanwhile, warm butter over medium heat in a small, separate pan, then add flour and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the reduced stock, whisking constantly.  The sauce will thicken.  Keep adding until desired consistency is reached.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little additional stock.  Finish with a large squeeze of lemon juice and additional salt and pepper if needed (keep in mind the stock was pre-salted).  If plating the fish, serve poured atop each piece.  Otherwise I prefer to present the whole fish in its liquid and serve family style.  Put the sauce in a warmed saucer so each person can add as much or as little as they like.

 

Next up: Pan Seared Coho with Chervil Butter Sauce and Sorrel Herb Salad over Creamy Leeks

Poached Salmon-3278.jpg

Bittersweet farmette: Swiss Chard Kimchi

It was a sweet, long summer here at the farmette, with some moments more bittersweet than others.  We've savored laughter from friends, with friends, from ducklings, chicks, and our dependable gaggling hens.  Even Rooster Rooster - our not-like-Big-Bird-who-attacked-me - rooster who lovingly (sometimes with a little "extra lovin") shepherds his girls around and doesn't so much as puff his auburn feathers at me, has contributed his fair share of joy with his confidently broken crow (ala teenage boy).  But as one might expect, there has also been some death on the farm, right alongside our own string of miscarriages.

Chocolate & zucchini: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I started writing this nearly a month ago--days before my sister's wedding, when the summer gourds were reproducing like mad in my garden. Well, things went pear shaped (me, the misshapen zucchini, but thankfully not the wedding) and the post went on hold. My sister still got married (hallelujah!) and it's mid September and the zucchini continue to fornicate like rabbits. So I'm in luck, and so are you if you've got pounds of the stuff sitting on your counter or growing like wildfire in the backyard (or on fire sale at the farmer's market). With chocolate is the best way to eat zucchini...or in the dead of winter curried up on a grilled cheese sandwich when the bounty of summer squash dances in your head like a vision (that recipe up next). Until then, I dread a few days away for fear of monster zucchini hiding under the vines, discovered and begging not to be wasted.