sustainable seafood on

What’s in Season: Poached Salmon

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Sustainable Seafood and Seafood Watch!

sustainable seafood on

Isn’t that photo mesmerizing? Ethereal. Beautiful. No, don’t worry. I’m not about to tell you how to cook jellyfish — although there are “jelly balls”  caught off the coast of Georgia and sent to Asia, where they are preserved and served in all manner of ways. But, salmon is in my recipe box today, not jelly balls!

Go Fish

There’s nothing as primal and pulling as water, especially the ocean. When I was a little girl and we’d go to the beach, I wasn’t happy until I had my feet in the water. I’m still that way to this day. If I am near the ocean, I am in the ocean. If I see a creek or a babbling brook, I want to wade in it.

The part I love the most about water is that I love to fish. Now, I am pretty high energy and don’t sit still too much. If I were to stand still on the edge of a body of water, I’d settle down for a little bit, but eventually? Eventually, my mind would be assembling lists and I would be thinking of all the things I need to do. I get restless. However, put a pole in my hand and I’m happy and content. I’ll sit still for hours and hours. My mind frees and it’s the most peaceful thing in the world to me.

There was a pond at my grandparent’s house and although we no longer own the property, it remains one of my most favorite places on earth. I was practically born with a fishing rod in my hand. One of my first memories was falling in the pond, the murky brown water, and the adults scampering to fish me out of the pond.

Mama said the first time I caught a fish on my own I jumped up and down so much that my diaper fell down around my ankles. Like I said, I was born to fish.

Respect the Water

I was also taught to respect the pond. Dede, my grandfather, explained not to keep bass that were too small. We were taught to recognize when females were swollen with eggs and release them back into the water. Fishing around the laying nests in the shallow end in the spring was forbidden, and sometimes, Dede would toss some of the bream (pronounced brim in Georgia) onto the bank if he felt like their stock was overpopulated and they were too skinny. We were taught to respect the pond and the fish it held. If a fish was hurt or maimed, we kept it regardless of size, and we always ate the fish we caught. To this day, when I kill and gut a fresh fish I have caught, I thank that fish for its life.

Seafood Watch

Many years ago, I read a book that changed my life and the way I eat fish. The book was Cod: The Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. Not only did I quit eating cod, I started thinking about just what the heck we humans were doing to our oceans. I started applying that same respect for the fish in my family pond as I did for the fish in the ocean. This curiosity eventually led me to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and their sustainable seafood advocacy program called Seafood Watch.

The deal is, according to Seafood Watch, nearly 75% of the world’s fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished. In the photo above I am fishing in Frenchman’s Bay off of Bar Harbor, Maine. In 1992 the government announced a moratorium on cod fishing. The moratorium was at first meant to last two years, hoping that the northern cod population would recover, and along with it the fishery. However, damage done to coastal ecosystem proved irreversible, and the cod fishery remains closed. So, the larger fish in the photo was a cod and returned to the ocean.

Programs such as the Seafood Watch or the Marine Stewardship Council offer information to help you choose seafood that’s good for you — and good for the oceans. Using a simple red means no, yellow means caution, and green means go color system, Seafood Watch recommends which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers and businesses become advocates for ocean-friendly seafood.

These recommendations are available online, in printed pocket guides, or as a downloadable app on mobile devices. Whole Foods Market labels their fish with the Seafood Watch color coding system as well as the MSC-certified seal of approval. The choices we make as consumers can make this situation worse, or improve it. Seafood Watch recommendations consider the fishery, habitat, species, management, and a host of other factors that affect each species.


salmon recipes on

Salmon Season

Earlier this week I cooked for a business luncheon. It’s been pretty warm, so while I was planning my menu, I was thinking about cold poached chicken or salmon with an herb salad with fresh greens from the garden. When I went to the store, I saw fresh sockeye salmon. I always look for fresh, not frozen, wild salmon and when I see it, I buy it. There are seasons for harvesting and catching fish just like there are for zucchini or apples.

Sockeye salmon has a full flavored firm flesh. It’s the second most abundant Alaska Salmon species. (There are different salmon species just like there are different kind of apples, too.) The distinct, deep red flesh retains its color throughout cooking.

salmon recipes on

How to Poach Fish

Poaching is a simple method that calls for submerging fish in barely simmering liquid and letting it gently cook while soaking up all kinds of flavor. It’s is a fantastic way to make an easy make ahead summer lunch or supper. I made this recipe the night before and chilled it in the refrigerator overnight. That way, I had precious little to do right before the big lunch. I think you’ll enjoy it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when poaching fish.

Poaching Mediums

Broth and wine-based poaching is refreshing and relatively light, while oil and butter-based poaching makes for decadent and unbelievably tender fillets.

Build Flavor with Aromatics

Add herbs, spices, and condiments like wine, soy sauce, and vinegar to your poaching liquid for a bigger boost in flavor.

Simmer Down There, Missy

Poaching isn’t boiling. Be sure not to let the liquid boil, as this will make your fish tough. You want to heat your poaching liquid to a slight simmer. Make sure you have enough liquid in your pan to fully cover the fish.

Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis 

PS Here are a few other sustainable seafood recipes to try – Herb Marinated Salmon and Catfish Tacos with Collard Green Cole Slaw 

sustainable seafood and salmon recipes on

Print Recipe
No ratings yet

Poached Salmon with Herb Mustard Sauce

My grandparents drove their motor home all the way from Georgia to Alaska three or four times. Dede loved Alaska, mostly because he liked salmon fishing. They would fish and then my grandmother would process it in her canning kettle in her tiny motor home kitchen. They’d return with cases and cases of salmon preserved in mason jars. I was in my twenties before I ever tasted commercially canned salmon.


  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 to 4 sprigs tarragon leaves coarsely chopped and stems reserved
  • 2 bay leaves preferably fresh
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 4 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for the greens


  • First, you need to prepare a court bouillon to poach the salmon: combine the water, wine, tarragon stems (leaves reserved), bay leaves, peppercorns, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Then, we set aside some of the liquid to chill the salmon instead of letting it cool in the hot liquid which would overcook it, or, cooling it in cold water which would dilute the flavor. Fill a large, heavy-duty sealable plastic bag filled with ice cubes. Place a bowl over a bowl of ice and transfer several cups of the court bouillon in a bowl. Place the ice pack in the bowl of broth; move the pack around until the broth is well chilled (drain the bag and add more ice to it as needed). Set the chilled court bouillon aside.
  • Return the heat to high and bring the remaining mixture to a rolling boil. Add the salmon fillets. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes.
  • To chill the salmon: Remove from the heat and remove the salmon from the poaching liquid. Transfer to the chilled court bouillon and allow the salmon to cool in the bouillon. Cover the fish and broth with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve. (This helps boost the flavor and allows you to make it ahead without it drying out. )
  • For the mustard sauce: Meanwhile, put the mustard in a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil into the mustard in a slow, steady stream. Stir in the reserved chopped tarragon leaves. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • When you are ready to serve, put the greens in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Arrange the greens on a platter Remove the salmon from the broth and pat dry with paper towels. Top the greens with the salmon and garnish with the sliced cucumber. Serve, passing the mustard sauce separately.

If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication is prohibited. All photos and content are copyright protected. If you wish to republish this recipe, please link back to this recipe on Thanks so much!

Let’s connect on Facebook , TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest!

cookbooks on

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained chef Virginia Willis has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. Virginia is a Beard award-winning cookbook author, chef, content creator, and motivational speaker. She has lost 65# and kept it off for more than 3 years. Because of her own health journey, she is a cheerleader for others seeking to make lifestyle changes to feel healthier and happier. Her experience inspired her to launch “Good and Good for You” a lifestyle brand rooted in culinary that shares health and wellness content through digital channels; public speaking; and print media. Fans love her approachable spirit and friendly down-to-earth style. For more information visit

This Post Has 2 Comments

Leave a Reply