Poached salmon with raspberry sauce for Mother’s Day – Advice Eating

A little over 30 years ago, author and pastor Robert Fulghum published his runaway bestseller, All I Really Need to Know From Kindergarten, in which he listed life rules such as “Share everything,” “Tell yourself if you’re sorry you hurt someone” and “flush”.

I am the Robert Fulghum of the duodenum. Pretty much everything I really need to know I learned as a teenager at dinner with my parents.

William E. and Madeleine M. St. John in the backyard of their Denver home, circa 1995. Photo courtesy Bill St. John.

We grew up as a big family. Nine kids, no twins. When I was growing up, I named my mother’s stove Noah’s Ark. Everything she cooked in it came in pairs: two hams, two pies, two casseroles. Our family consumed three loaves of bread, two gallons of milk, and a jar of peanut butter daily.

The dining room was clearly the most important room in our house. Not the family room and its come-here TV. Not our own rooms and their cozy privacy. The dining room.

One night over dinner when I was in my mid-teens (and number nine in diapers), my dad told us he had “a big surprise” for dessert.

Well, that’s a carrot, mate, to get your kids to behave around the table and finish their plates. And it worked, but it also boiled the waters of tension.

When the time came, my dad pulled out a Snickers bar — a Snickers bar — and used a knife to cut it into nine equal pieces and passed them around, each piece on its own small plate.

Then he said: “I want you children to know that in my eyes each of you is the same. That’s all.”

I stormed out of the dining room angrily. How dare he? I deserved a larger portion than the others. I was the oldest, the tallest, the hungriest.

Someone ate my piece.

It was a long time before I figured out what my father was doing that evening. In all of the vicissitudes of our family, in all of the crazy things we children did to our parents, my father never repressed this split in his love for his children.

The food I remember most about my mother is when she graduated as a chef. It started out as frozen slabs of halibut, thrown like horseshoes onto the baking sheet and topped with a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup. She based her spaghetti sauce on Heinz tomato soup.

She just had so many gullies to fill.

Later, when most of us had grown into our late teens and twenties, she blossomed like the roses she adored. She’s clipped drawers full of food magazine recipes, attended cooking schools in Europe, cooked increasingly delicious meals for all of us.

Of the nine of us, three are gay. This development seemed more difficult to mom than dad, perhaps because of her background. She was raised in a small village in Belgium by fairly conservative Roman Catholic parents, so the foreign from here was put on the foreign from there. Her past hadn’t provided her with the tools to talk about being gay. And she didn’t talk about it.

While visiting San Francisco in the late 1980s to visit one of her three gay children, she noticed in my sister’s kitchen a cookbook that had been released as a fundraiser by Project Open Hand, a Bay Area organization for which my sister volunteered to provide so-called “Meals with Love” to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Pictures of Bill St. John's parents at a table in Europe in 1985. This story uses his mother's recipe for poached salmon.
William E. and Madeleine M. St. John at dinner in Europe, circa 1985. Photo courtesy of Bill St. John.

My mom returned to Denver and modestly began work on her own cookbook called Friends for Dinner, which raised $150,000 (nearly $350,000 in 2022) to the Volunteers of America’s Meals on Wheels coffers for People with AIDS.

She and my father self-published the book, in a third edition, and didn’t take a dime for the production or recipe-testing costs. My mom whipped up sales of this book by setting up a card table outside the Tattered Cover bookstore over the weekend and handing out homemade chocolate truffles if you bought a copy.

“Friends for Dinner” – that’s what my mother used to say about her gay children.

It was loud.

I’ve learned so much about life – especially caring and kindness – from my mother’s kitchen, from the thousands of meals she prepared for her family, friends and guests, from this book, from the hundreds of courses that she taught at La Bonne Cuisine, a private cooking school she ran from her home kitchen.

The recipe here comes from La Bonne Cuisine and a session my mom called, using a word from her native French language, “A Salut to Spring.” She loved to cook salmon.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Poached salmon with raspberry beurre blanc

By Madeleine St. John, La Bonne Cuisine, Denver. Served 6


4 cups dry white wine

2 cups of water

1 cup sliced ​​celery

10 peppercorns

4 small onions, sliced

4 small carrots, sliced

2 medium sprigs of parsley

1 large bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 whole fresh 9 to 12 pound salmon, cleaned and patted dry

Watercress, lemon and lime slices, fresh raspberries for garnish

For the raspberry beurre blanc:

1/2 cup raspberry vinegar

1/4 chopped shallot

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) heavy cream, heated

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

2 tbsp raspberry jam, sieved from the “stones”


Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large stockpot or fish poacher and bring to a slow simmer over moderate (or medium) heat. Add salmon and poach 45 minutes to 1 hour. DO NOT BOIL POACHING LIQUID.

Place the poached salmon on the work surface to drain and set. Remove and discard head. Using a sharp knife, gently loosen the salmon skin, starting at the head, then peel it off by hand, working your way towards the tail. Remove a thin layer of dark flesh. Arrange salmon on plates. (Salmon can be prepared and refrigerated several hours in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.)

Make the raspberry beurre blanc: Combine the vinegar and shallot in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until vinegar reduces to 2 tablespoons. Add cream and continue cooking until liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Remove from heat and stir in 2 or 3 knobs of butter, 1 knob at a time.

Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring in the remaining butter, until the mixture is the consistency of light-colored mayonnaise. Stir in the strained raspberry jam.

To serve, garnish the poached salmon with watercress, lemon and lime slices, and fresh raspberries. Serve with the sauce.

Reach Bill St. John at billstjohn@gmail.com

Leave a Comment