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Fourth of July supper: New England poached salmon

Fourth of July marks the day the Declaration of Independence was read out over the streets of Boston. Many New Englanders mark Fourth of July with a meal of poached salmon

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So, did the Adams family eat salmon on Independence Day? Maybe it doesn’t really matter. The point is, in New England, poached salmon with egg sauce has been a continuing tradition. At least this is what I’m told. Having lived in New England most of my life, I can truthfully say I’ve never had poached salmon on the Fourth of July. Hamburgers off the smoky backyard grill, yes. And gigantic bratwurst, “brats,” served by the local firemen wearing red suspenders when we lived in Wisconsin. But that’s a Midwestern story.

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Staff editor

Kendra Nordin is a staff editor and writer for the weekly print edition of the Monitor. She also produces Stir It Up!, a recipe blog for

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Americans have always been quick to establish traditions, toss them out, and make new ones. We’re good like that. And if saying Abigail Adams served poached salmon on July 4 sold a few more plates in 1964 and makes us feel more patriotic when we eat it, where’s the harm (outside of being historically inaccurate)? After all, do we really know if George Washington actually cut down that cherry tree?

Tall tales are as American as apple pie. The point is, Abigail Adams was a woman of vision. And George Washington was a man of valor. Those facts are indisputable. We need our founding stories as we lift up our chins and spirits in wonder to give meaning to the fireworks bursting overhead.

Go ahead, serve up this New England legend on the Fourth. It’s tasty. Somewhere, the wild salmon are running from sea to shining sea.

Poached Salmon Steaks

6 salmon steaks, 1 inch thick


3 slices lemon

1 bay leaf

3 or 4 peppercorns

Parsley sprigs and fresh dill for garnish

Heat 2 quarts water to boiling, reduce heat, and add salt, lemon slices, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add fish and simmer, allowing 10 minutes per measured inch of thickness, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, cool, then carefully remove bone and skin, keeping steaks intact. Serve in platter and cover with egg sauce. (For added flavor, mix some of the fish stock with the milk for the egg sauce.) Garnish with parsley and fresh dill.

Egg Sauce for Salmon

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup heated milk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup fish stock)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 hard-boiled eggs (hard boil eggs: Cover eggs with water 1-inch submerged in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 17 minutes. Drain and cool eggs under running water)

Fresh parsley and mint

Melt butter over low heat in heavy saucepan. Mix flour into the butter and cook slowly, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until well blended. Gradually stir in hot milk. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until smooth and thick. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 2 coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs. Serve with poached salmon.

Serve salmon and egg sauce with peas and new potatoes cooked in boiling water in their skins. Cover with butter, salt and pepper, and chopped parsley. Fresh mint adds a nice flavor to the peas, too.

Finish off the meal with red, white, and blue shortcakes.

Related posts on Kitchen Report: Red, white, and blueberry triffle

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