When fish gets anywhere near heat it starts to leech water. So how do you get light, moist, aromatic fish that retains most of its juices? Cook it slowly, fully immersed in olive oil. And since oil doesn’t like water and the water stays in the fish, it won’t absorb the oil.
The flavors for the components of this dish were suggested by François Chartier, a principle advocate of the view that foods and wines that share chemical compounds pair well. Hence the parsley and mint oils, parsnip purée and sliced fennel paired with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, all of which contain chemicals which exhibit to varying degrees the licorice-like flavor of fennel. (The tangerine and beet garnish were added for color).
It is too early to pass a verdict on Chartier’s thesis but these components did pair well. The Sauvignon Blanc (reviewed here) was a perfect match for the parsnips and a satisfactory partner with fennel. But much depends on relative amounts. The parsley and mint oils were too subtle and disappeared beneath the gooseberry onslaught of the wine.
For parsley oil bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 bunch of parsley to water and cook 20 seconds. Drain parsley and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Squeeze out excess water. Combine parsley and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor and process until oil is infused with parsley. Reserve.
Parsnip Purée Bring medium pot to boil and add 4 peeled parsnips cut into 1 inch chunks. Cook until soft, 15-20 minutes.. Add to food processor and process until pureed adding a little cream or milk to reach desired consistency. Return puree to stove and heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Fennel Salad with mint oil Take one large fennel bulb. Cut 1/8 of an inch of the bottom of the root end. Then split the bulb lengthwise in half. With a mandoline or very sharp knife, cut the fennel crosswise into very thin slices. Serve raw if you want them crunchy or blanch briefly to soften. Add minced mint to olive oil and drizzle over salad.
4 6-oz salmon fillets (skin on or off as you prefer)
Aromatics such as 1/2 onion, 1 sliced lemon, or 3-4 garlic cloves
A baking dish in which Salmon will fit snugly
Olive oil to cover salmon in the dish
Heat oven to 250 [Check your oven temperature. If its too cold the fish will not cook. If it’s too hot, the salmon will roast.]
Put oil in the baking dish along with aromatics and heat gently on the stove top until oil reaches 150 degrees.
Add fish to the baking dish and place in oven.
Cook for 20-25 minutes.
Carefully remove fish from baking dish and briefly drain on paper towels.
Serve over parsnip purée, drizzled with parsley oil, and accompanied by fennel salad.