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Savor the Sea: Fresh, Easy Summer Meals

Youghal Harbor.

Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson

Everyone loves a good portion of fish ‘n chips, but not everyone appreciates the added fat and calories that come with it. Here’s where poaching comes in — a simple, healthier, and flavorful way to prepare fish with no batter, no breading, and no oil. Stuff filets of white fish with an elegant mix of crabmeat and salmon; roll filets and serve them with oven-roasted potatoes; or shallow poach with tomatoes and herbs for easy summer meals.

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Serves 4

Use sole or another mild white fish in this recipe. Serve with boiled new potatoes.

For the fish

2 ounces crabmeat

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1 ounce butter

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 ounces smoked salmon

4 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream

Pinch cayenne pepper


Ground pepper

12 (4 to 6 ounce) sole fillets, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

Fresh parsley sprig,s for garnish

For the chive sauce

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/4 cup fish stock

2 ounces unsalted butter, diced

4 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Boiled new potatoes, for serving

Parsley sprigs, for garnish

  1. Make fish. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in crabmeat and ginger; cook for about 3 minutes, or until heated through. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice; set aside.

  2. Combine smoked salmon, remaining lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and cream In food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times to combine. Stir into crab mixture.

  3. Season each fillet with salt and pepper. Divide salmon-crab mixture onto each piece, roll-up, and brush with some lemon juice. Place fish, seam side-down, in shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold fish in one layer. Pour over water and wine, cover with foil, and poach for about 10 minutes.

  4. Make sauce. In small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine wine, vinegar, and fish stock; cook for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add cream and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until further reduced. Whisk in butter until it melts completely; stir in chives.

  5. To serve, spoon chive sauce onto four plates and arrange three stuffed fillets on each. Garnish with parsley sprig and serve with potatoes.


Serves 4

For a change of pace and texture, serve this poached fish with crunchy oven-roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables. Serve with the chive butter sauce from the previous recipe.

For the potatoes

4 large potatoes, cubed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the fish

12 (4 to 6 ounce) sole fillets, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine

Fresh parsley sprigs for garnish

Steamed carrots, turnips, and green beans for serving

  1. Make potatoes. Preheat oven to 450°. In medium bowl, toss potatoes with oil, parsley, dill, and salt. Spread out in single layer in an ovenproof baking dish and roast, turning once or twice, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Keep warm.

  2. Make fish. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Roll up fish and place seam side-down in shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold fish in one layer. Pour over water and wine, cover with foil, and poach for about 10 minutes.

  3. To serve, arrange fish on serving plates, top with chive butter sauce, and serve with vegetables and roasted potatoes.





Easy, fast and elegant, shallow-poaching is method that uses a cartouche, a parchment paper cover that allows the fish to cook gently with moist heat while allowing some of the steam to escape. The recipe comes from renown Chef Jacques Pépin, whom I was fortunate to interview onboard an Oceania cruise where Pépin serves as Executive Culinary Director for the line. This “If you use a lid,” Pepin says, “you run the risk of overcooking the fish because it becomes too hot inside the pan. With the shallow-poach method, you also create a fish broth, called cuisson, which can be used as the base for a sauce.”

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 (6-ounce) fish fillets, such as halibut, cod or snapper, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
10 Niçoise olives, pitted
2 sprigs fresh parsley

  1. Melt butter and oil in bottom of a small, straight-sided sauté pan; line pan with shallot slices. Place fish fillets on top of shallots, leaving space between them. Add wine to a depth is one-quarter the thickness of the fish. Place lemon slices (reserve 2 slices for garnish), tomatoes and olives on top of fish; place herbs around sides.

  2. Make a cartouche by cutting a parchment paper circle 1 to 2 inches larger than the sauté pan; butter one side of cartouche. Cover fish, buttered-side down, and then tuck it into sides of pan. Bring fish to a simmer over medium heat, checking occasionally to be sure fish is not boiling and adjusting heat to maintain a gentle simmer. When fish reaches an internal temperature of 125°F to 140°F, transfer to a plate; cover with cartouche to keep warm.

  3. Discard thyme and bay leaf, increase heat to medium-high, and cook liquid for 3 to 4 minutes, or until sauce is slightly reduced.

  4. To serve, spoon sauce over fish, olives and tomatoes; garnish with parsley and reserved lemon slices.



Serves 4

If the idea of a one-dish meal with Irish roots is appealing, then this recipe will definitely please. I enjoyed it as the “catch of the day” many years ago at Aherne’s Seafood Bar in Youghal, County Cork. There it featured locally caught cod fillets cooked in a “parcel” with wine, fresh herbs, and wild mushrooms, but you can easily adapt it to whatever thick white fish is available. You can also substitute cherry tomatoes for the mushrooms if you wish. Make your own herb butter, or for an easier approach, use Kerrygold’s Garlic and Herb Butter. Both butters are delicious additions to grilled, broiled, or poached fish. Bonus: you can assemble the packets hours in advance and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Serve the parcels with boiled or mashed potatoes.

For the herb butter

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon chopped shallots

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


2 teaspoons lemon pepper

For the fish

1/2 cup chopped wild mushrooms, wiped clean

1 small leek (white part only), chopped

1 small stalk celery, julienned

1 small carrot, julienned

4 (4 to 6 ounce) cod or other white fish fillets, rinsed and patted dry

2 to 3 sprigs fresh herbs such as parsley, chervil, or chives

8 lemon slices

1/4 cup dry white wine

  1. Make butter. In a small bowl, blend butter with shallots, chives, parsley, salt and lemon pepper.

  2. Make fish. Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper into 12-inch squares.

  3. Divide mushrooms, leeks, celery and carrots onto the center of each piece of parchment; top with the cod fillets. Spread each piece of fish with 1 tablespoon of herb butter (refrigerate leftover butter in a small plastic container). Sprinkle with herbs and top with 2 lemon slices. Pour wine around fish. Fold parchment paper packets up and around the pieces of fish; fold or tie ends to seal. Place the packets on a baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through. To serve, place a parcel onto serving plate sand unwrap.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit

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