Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus (French Tarragon Class, Part 1)

Bring seasoned water to a boil; add salmon; remove from heat and rest, covered, until done. Yes, that’s all.

While it always sounds like a joke, it definitely isn’t. There really are entire series of cooking classes devoted to BOILING WATER. As in, “He can’t boil water.” Well, kinda-sorta, but yes:

Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures — Boiling Water 101 was a class I taught for 10 years at a local school in Minnesota. This recipe was one I designed to teach a basic skill but also deliver complex flavors and serve as a touchstone for family meals or entertaining. You really need to practice braising/poaching/blanching as often as you can because wet-heat cooking is much more subtle than dry-heat cooking but so much easier. Recipes like this will change your outlook on cooking for sure. Get wet! 

Andrew Zimmern

Jump to Recipe

And if you’re still unsure, I have to tell you I watched an episode of the New Scandanavian Cook, Andreas Viestad, on PBS the other day where he cooked his trout (much like salmon), carrots, and apples, in an Icelandic geothermal pool a la sous vide. You might not have a geothermal pool nearby, but you’ve got water and a pot, right? I mean, think about the things that are changed overwhelmingly by only adding them to boiling water. Eggs, pasta, dry beans, rice, potatoes, couscous, corn on the cob, shrimp…the list goes on.

To my water, I add fresh tarragon, garlic, salt, and peppercorns. That’s it.

Today’s salmon is just as miraculous. I’ll tell you straight on. You bring water (with aromatics) to boil, add salmon, cover the pot, remove it from the heat for a few minutes, et voila, your fish is cooked. Could anything be simpler? Or healthier? Ok, I do add aioli (pronounced ay-OH-lee) for serving and that might take away from the whole healthy thing, but not much.

Ok, What is Aioli, Anyway? (Hint: These days it’s a catchall term for a flavored homemade mayonnaise.)

YouTube video: Aioli/Chef John (Making aioli with a whisk.)

Hello, dinner.

And while there are so, so many salmon recipes —and a ton on this blog alone — I came by this one for a pretty stellar reason. I have my first in-person cooking class in 16 months this weekend. Mercy; it’s been a long haul. This one happens to be a private class as I’m limited to vaccinated folk. Given as a gift a year ago, I’m finally making good on the gift certificate.

Here’s Jim cooking a Chicken Fricassée in an earlier class.

My dear friend and student, Jim Mahoney, the certificate recipient, returned from a couple of months away talking about his new “favorite herb, tarragon.” That told me all I needed to know about what his class should be. That and my French Tarragon is really coming on in the garden.

While it doesn’t look quite like this yet (this is last year), there’s plenty already this spring.

Good Question: How Can I Tell if This is French Tarragon/KITCHN

Poking around for tarragon recipes on the blog and on the internet, I came across an old Bon Appétit poached salmon recipe I knew I could adapt for our entrée. As I wanted a starter and a first course that featured French Tarragon, the hunt wasn’t over (and you might hear about those recipes another day), but the main course was situated. It only needed testing, writing, and, well, eating. That was no problem. It won’t be for you, either, when you try this simple, but elegantly delicious dish:

Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus

This super easy salmon recipe is easily doubled, just use a larger pot or covered skillet. You’ll have extra aioli unless you halve that recipe, but it’s good in the fridge for a couple of days and perfect for a sandwich spread, a veggie dip, to spoon onto oven roasted or grilled potatoes or vegetables, or as a shrimp sauce. You could serve the dish cold on a hot summer day, but it’s delicious hot or warm.
Serves 2


  • 2 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh chives plus 2 tablespoons minced chives for garnish
  • ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves plus two sprigs for cooking the salmon
  • ¾ cup oil: half canola or other neutral vegetable oil and half extra virgin olive oil – plus 2 tablespoons for cooking asparagus
  • 1 garlic clove mashed
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 2 4-6 – ounce skin-on salmon fillets
  • 1- pound trimmed asparagus
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Flaky sea salt-I like Le Saunier De Camargue Fleur De Sel


  • MAKE THE TARRAGON-CHIVE AIOLI: Using a whisk and a large bowl, or a blender, or a food processor, blend the yolks, lemon juice, a pinch of kosher salt, and mustard powder. Add the ¼ cup each chives and tarragon. (If making by hand, mince the fresh herbs before adding to the egg mixture.) Drizzle in the oil very slowly at first whisking or pulsing continually until emulsified, smooth, and flecked with the finely minced herbs. Don’t overmix. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too bitter, whisk in a ½ teaspoon honey. Set aside or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days ahead.
  • POACH THE SALMON: In a 4-quart dutch oven or medium lidded skillet, bring 4 cups water to boil with the reserved tarragon sprigs, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, smashed garlic, and 2 teaspoons peppercorns. Add salmon, cover; remove from heat. Let stand until salmon is cooked (opaque, but still juicy) about 6 minutes. Begin checking for doneness at 5 minutes.
  • SAUTÉ THE ASPARAGUS: While the water for the salmon heats and the salmon poaches, heat a small skillet over medium-high flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat for another minute until shimmering. Add the asparagus — it’ll seem all piled up – and season with 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, the pinch of crushed red pepper, and the lemon zest; toss well. Sauté, tossing every minute or so with tongs, until just crispy tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from heat and set aside loosely covered if the salmon is not yet done.
  • SERVE HOT OR WARM OR AT ROOM TEMPERATURE OR COLD: Add a salmon fillet to each of 2 warm plates or shallow bowls (if serving hot or warm) with some asparagus to the side. Ladle the aioli over the salmon. Garnish with reserved minced chives, a sprinkle of flaky salt, and a grind or two of fresh pepper.


If you don’t want to make aioli (but I wish you would), don’t use a jarred mayonnaise. Instead, melt butter with the chopped fresh tarragon and chives and use that as a sauce along with a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
* Based on a recipe published in BON APPETIT, May 2013.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2021. All rights reserved.


*Leftover aioli, which keeps 2 days in the fridge, is perfect as a dip for fresh vegetables or spooned onto roasted potatoes or other vegetables. A dip for shrimp? Sure! A salad dressing? Mais ouis…

Last night’s “leftover” salad. I did fry croutons and stovetop grill a little shrimp to fill out the meal. The aioli dressed the salad beautifully.

*As the aioli calls for egg yolks, you’ll have a few egg whites, which make lovely meringue, royal icing, egg white omelets, or fluffy omelets. If you have a dog who can have eggs, cook the whites up for a treat for him or her. Or just beat them into a few whole eggs for a larger serving of scrambled eggs and season them up a little more than usual. Read up here for other ideas for using egg whites.

*Extra salmon? Time for salmon tacos or salad. I also like flaked or chopped cooked salmon stirred into scrambled eggs or made into a salmon spread for an appetizer or easy light dinner.

*The poaching water can be cooled and used in soup, chowder, or even for watering the garden if you spoon out the peppercorns first. Here in the west, water is precious; I even save pasta water or water from boiling eggs, for instance. I walk right out the front door and pour it into a flower bed or herb pot if I’ve no other use for it.

*If you’ve trimmed the asparagus, toss the ends into a plastic bag in the freezer and save for making stock, broth, or soup. You’ve heard it before. Save your chicken carcass or even the bones from pieces of chicken you’ve cooked if the meat has been cut off the bone rather than eaten out of hand. A few spare pieces of cooked asparagus are easy to chop and add to a green salad, which benefits greatly from the addition of a cooked vegetable for a difference in texture and flavor.

Use those leftover asparagus ends here making stock.




How to Boil Water, Boiling Points of Water (at sea level/at altitude)/WHATSCOOKINGAMERICA

Poaching ideas from/EPICURIOUS


Sous-Vide Salmon with Apple/NSC (Icelandic geothermal fish recipe adapted for a home kitchen.)

Buy Fleur de Sel

Garlicky Two Potato and Green Bean Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette/MORETIMEATTHETABLE

View as you enter the town of Estes Park, CO. The lake often holds a herd of elk.


A long weekend in Estes Park, Colorado (a stunning 3-hour drive from our house) found us together with both our children and grandchildren for the first time since the first week of December, 2019. Grateful beyond the telling.

Below: my personal jeweler and me wearing one of her gorgeous creations. Since she could string a bead, Piper has been making jewelry. At 6, she’s quite the artiste.

We arrived back home Sunday (a day early to avoid the mountain snow storm) to our ornamental crab in almost full bloom. Sometimes it never makes it to this stage due to late snows or heavy rains, but this year we struck the jackpot!

If it’s something you celebrate, enjoy Mother’s Day. This salmon would be lovely for dinner.

But love spring no matter what…


5 thoughts on “Poached Salmon with Tarragon-Chive Aioli and Lemon Asparagus (French Tarragon Class, Part 1)

  1. Thought of you as I harvested the first “wild” asparagus spears in the park that you have a lovely view of from your place!

  2. This poached salmon with aioli looks so fancy. I appreciate your ideas on how to reduce food waste. I love pairing herbs with salmon, so this is right up my alley.

  3. Pingback: Sour Cream of Asparagus Soup | More Time at the Table

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