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Salmon Dinner from the Bathtub | Yankee Classic Article

Begin by putting the rocks (enough to pave the tub by about one third) into a cold oven. Turn the heat to 200° and bake for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to 375° and bake at least 1-1/2 hours more.

Heat several large pots of water while you are heating the rocks. Put seasonings in if you’re inclined toward court bouillon. Bathtubs and giant fish vary so much that it’s hard to suggest quantities, but a four-foot fish in a five-foot tub will require about 10 to 15 gallons of liquid, 3 pounds each of carrots and celery, 5 or 6 big onions, 8 lemons, 2 bunches of parsley, 5 or 6 bay leaves, and 1/4 cup peppercorns.

Of course you won’t need nearly so much if you just use the seasonings to stuff the fish. This “stuffing” is partly to provide flavor and partly to keep the top and bottom of the fish slightly ajar so the heat can get all the way to the backbone from both directions.

Lay out four overlapping long pieces of cheesecloth crisscross to make a square and lay the fish thereon. Insert the vegetables, cut in rough chunks. Completely wrap the fish in the cheesecloth, pulling it tight. Tie it in a few places with kitchen twine. This binding up will help the fish keep its shape during the cooking process.

Put the fish on its support and let it come to room temperature.

Clean the bathtub. First scrub mightily with cleanser, then rinse with the greatest possible thoroughness. After you’ve given the final rinse, go back and wipe out the whole tub with a vinegar-soaked cloth. Rinse again. Fill the tub with hot tap water and let it heat thoroughly.

O.K. Everybody ready? Drain the tub. Lower in the fish on its support. Pour the heated (seasoned) water over and around the fish. Position a heated rock on a tea towel, and lower it into the water. Roll the rock off the towel, as close to the fish as it will go without touching. Position the rest in the same way.

Now inspect the water level. If it doesn’t come halfway up the fish, add hot tap water until it does. Arm yourself with a small saucepan and start ladling the hot water over the fish. Keep it up, concentrating on the thicker sections and not worrying overmuch about the head. A fish four inches thick will take about an hour.

When you think the fish is cooked, use a razor blade to cut right through the cheesecloth into the fish at the thick part near the backbone. As soon as the flesh there is opaque, the cooking is complete. A thin layer of still-translucent meat next to the bone is O.K. Held heat will continue the cooking for some time after the tub is drained.

Let the fish cool in situ, if you can. There are few things more awkward to handle than a big hot wet fish.

The fish should, however, still be slightly tepid when you transfer it to the serving platter, because a warm fish is so much easier to peel. Film the platter and the support with cold water so the fish will slide around easily. Move the fish gently off the support onto the platter, proceeding cautiously so it doesn’t break. Cut away the cheesecloth.

Remove and discard the stuffing. Carefully peel away most of the fish skin, leaving a decorative bit near the tail, and of course the head. Have a flat knife handy in case you need to help free the creamy pink meat.

Now either glaze the salmon with aspic (see your all-purpose cookbook) or cover the exposed portion with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

To chill the fish and keep it cold, put the platter on a strong support, back into the faithful bathtub. Surround it with ice. Be sure the support is tall enough to keep the platter out of the melted ice water.

At serving time surround the fish with leaves and flowers and pass a nice green sauce separately. Here are some green sauces for poached fish:

Updated Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

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