Recipe courtesy of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger

Court Bouillon for Poaching Fish

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  • Level: Easy
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Court Bouillon:

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 stalk of celery, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 head of garlic, halved horizontally

3 sprigs parsley

3 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

2 teaspoons fennel seed

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1/2 cup white vinegar or 1 1/2 cups dry white wine

2 tablespoons coarse salt

2 quarts water

Poached Fish:

4 6 ounce firm fleshed fish fillets, such as salmon, bass, or snapper, skin removed

1 teaspoon oil or butter

23 cups court bouillon, strained (recipe above)

Spicy Almonds:

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 teaspoon canola oil 

1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce 

Juice of one lime 

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground 

3 garlic cloves, minced 

2 scallions, sliced into thin rings, white and light green parts kept separate from dark greens

4 wedges of lime for garnish 

Watercress Emulsion:

1 bunch watercress

1 tablespoon. coarse salt 

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste


  1. For the bouillon: Place all ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain and reserve. Can be refrigerated 3 days or frozen for months.
  2. For the fish: Run fingers over fish fillets to feel for tiny bones; if there are any, remove with needlenose pliers or tweezers. Lightly oil or butter the bottom of a deep skillet big enough to fit fish fillets in a single layer and place fish thus in skillet. Bring court bouillon to a simmer. Gently pour court bouillon over the fish, covering completely. Turn heat on very low so that liquid steams but does not quite simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and let fish sit in liquid an additional 5 minutes per inch of thickness. Start checking fish for doneness: a thin knife inserted in thickest part of fillet should meet with just slight resistance. Fish should still be slightly translucent in center. Remove fish from skillet with slotted spatula, blot the bottom lightly with a paper towel, and serve. 
  3. For the almonds: Heat large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add almonds and cook for 2 minutes, tossing frequently, until light brown and smelling toasty. Reduce heat to low. Drizzle oil over nuts and toss well. Sprinkle soy and lime juice over and toss well. Sprinkle cayenne, black pepper, garlic and scallion white/light greens over and toss very well. Continue to cook, stirring and tossing frequently, for 5 minutes or until nuts are dry and scallion and garlic are soft. Add scallion greens, toss again, and serve over poached bass or snapper with a wedge of lime. 
  4. For the emulsion: Wash watercress and remove the thickest stems. Bring medium pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Have a medium bowl of ice water at hand for refreshing. When water returns to the boil, plunge watercress in and cook for 30 seconds. Drain watercress and quickly drop in ice water. When thoroughly chilled, drain watercress again and lightly squeeze out water. Chop blanched watercress roughly on cutting board. Place in blender and puree, adding a little water if necessary to get the mixture going. With blender running, gradually pour in oil until emulsion is formed. Add rest of salt and pepper, puree again and taste, adjusting seasoning if needed. Serve over poached salmon. 

Cook’s Note

Court bouillon makes 34 cups.