Chardonnay and Riesling | Whole Poached Fish | Wine Enthusiast
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Chardonnay and Riesling | Whole Poached Fish

Chardonnay and Riesling, so different in youth, take on similar characteristics as they age. Their bright fruit starts to take a back seat to such diverse notes as smoke, butter and beeswax. The vanilla and sweet spice of an oaked Chardonnay morphs into toast and nuts, and Riesling develops the “petrol” character so revered by its devotees. This savory side, coupled with both wines’ high acidity, makes them perfect pairing partners for a range of dishes, especially those that combine delicacy with richness.

From our dream cellar:

Marcassin 2002 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast)
Egon Müller 1990 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett  (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer)

Just because salmon and trout can withstand strong flavors and cooking methods doesn’t mean they always should. There are few things as elegant and timeless as a whole poached fish with its skin removed and blanketed with paper-thin cucumber slices to resemble scales (though salmon fillets are also delicious when poached). Use white wine in the poaching liquid, and serve it with a homemade mayo mixed with a little curry powder to echo the wines’ subtly exotic flavors.

Fish poachers are inexpensive and make an effortless task of poaching whole fish, but a stovetop-safe roasting pan covered with foil works as well. If using a poacher, be sure you don’t buy a fish too big for it. When buying the fish, tell the fishmonger you’re poaching it whole so he can clean it appropriately. Homemade mayo is foolproof with a blender or food processor; adding curry powder is up to you.


1 whole salmon or trout, cleaned, gutted and scaled
Kosher salt
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 lemon, sliced
4 bay leaves, or a handful of fresh thyme, dill or fennel
1 English cucumber, sliced paper-thin
Homemade mayonnaise (recipe below)


Set salmon in poacher or roasting pan and cover with cold water. Add large pinch of salt (the water should be pleasingly salty), onion, lemon and herbs. Cover pan tightly and place over two burners set to high heat. Bring to boil, then turn off heat and leave on stovetop until cool. Carefully transfer salmon to a serving dish and gently scrape off skin from the body leaving fins, if you like. Garnish with one or more overlapping rows of cucumber slices, and pass mayonnaise separately. Serves 6–8.

Homemade Mayonnaise Ingredients

2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups neutral oil, such as sunflower or grapeseed
For curry mayo, 1 tablespoon curry powder and 2 more tablespoons lemon juice

Homemade Mayonnaise Ingredients

Add eggs, mustard, lemon juice and salt to blender or food processor. Turn machine on, blend for about 5 seconds, then add oil in very slow, steady stream. Transfer to bowl and season to taste with more salt or lemon juice; whisk in a little warm water if it’s too thick. Whisk in curry powder and additional lemon juice, if using.

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