Poached Salmon with Cucumber ‘Scales’

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 6

Poached Salmon with Cucumber ‘Scales’ ~ this healthy poached salmon makes a stunning presentation for any special occasion ~ and it’s easy to do!

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island

My friend Judith and I were winding our way through the aisles of Costco yesterday, filing our cart with lots of over-sized stuff… we’d put something  in our cart, only to think better of it a few minutes later and replace it with something else just as unnecessary. But when we reached the food section, things got serious. 2 dozen sonic toothbrush heads?….not so much,  but 2 pounds of glossy salmon fillets, you bet.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 2

She told me about the time her sister-in-law served salmon this way, and I got intrigued. This is just for a lark. It’s not AT ALL hard to do, and it makes cold salmon look elegant. Think Mother’s Day, or a light summer dinner for the two of you. Salmon is one of the few fish that I think tastes just as good hot or cold. It’s perfect for hot weather because you can poach it in the cool of the morning, and serve it straight from the fridge at night. This is a pretty dish, so it lends itself to special occasions, but it’s so easy that you can do it just for fun.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 3

The one thing you will need for this dish is a MANDOLIN SLICER. You know I’ve harped on this subject many times, you need a mandolin slicer. There are so many fabulous things that you can only make with one of these inexpensive tools…homemade chips, paper thin rounds of lemon and other citrus, and these cucumber ‘scales’. While the salmon is poaching you can bang out the scales in a matter of seconds. You want to slice them really thinly so they are flexible enough to lay across the fish and conform to its shape. I used small Persian pickling cucumbers, but you could also use the seedless variety that comes shrink-wrapped in plastic. Regular cucumbers will probably be too large for this.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 5

Aside from being pretty, this tastes really great, too, the soft flaky salmon is really refreshing with the light crunch of the cucumber. All it needs is a squeeze of lemon, and maybe a simple sauce of yogurt, dill and lemon. Tarter sauce will do in a pinch.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 6
3 from 30 votes

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales

Author Sue Moran


  • 1 - 1 1/2 pound salmon fillet
  • 2-3 lemons thinly sliced
  • several small pickling cucumbers or 1 seedless cucumber
  • fresh parsley or dill sprigs


  • Set the oven to 400F
  • Rinse the salmon and lay out in a baking pan long enough to accommodate it. Add cold water to the pan, to almost but not quite cover the fish. Add one sliced lemon to the water, and cover the pan with foil. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.
  • Drain the fish and chill.
  • After the fish has chilled, slice the cucumbers into paper thin slices. The slices have to be thin enough to be flexible, so they will conform to the shape of the fish. Use the thinnest setting on the mandolin. I recommend slicing just a few pieces to start with, and check to see if you've got the right thickness. No need to peel the cucumbers.
  • To layer the 'scales', begin at the tail end and working upwards. Lay them in an alternating, overlapping pattern, just like fish scales!
  • Serve the fish cold, with wedges of lemon.

Cook's notes

If you make this ahead of time, brush it with a mixture of lemon juice and water and cover loosely with damp paper towels. Then cover with plastic. I don't recommend making this too far in advance.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Scales | The View from Great Island 7

Whatever you do, don’t get too wrapped up in trying to make the scales perfect, or tying to create a literal ‘fish’ on your platter. Think of the scales  as a pretty design element, because the more you try to make it look like a realistic fish, the more it will resemble a giant pineapple. (I speak from experience)  Just go with the flow, add a little parsley and a few lemon slices around the edges, and  it will be delicious.

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  • Reply
    Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen
    May 16, 2014 at 5:36 am

    OMG, your salmon is out-of-this-world gorgeous. It belongs on fancy brunch table in a swanky restaurant. You are so right about the mandolin. It is an essential tool and I have one in both of my kitchens. One is easier to use than the other though, so I leave the fancier one for my husband to use 🙂

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    May 9, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Yum! I love the combination of textures and the beautiful contrast. I can’t believe how easy you make this look. Love my mandolin! We planted a bunch of cucumbers this year – maybe I have to give this a try!

  • Reply
    [email protected] and Back Again
    May 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I see you’re doing things old-school! I’ve seen this recipe in many old cookbooks. It was a big hit in the 50s!

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Gorgeous, Sue! I can’t believe how quickly your vision came to fruition……and I didn’t think you could top your summer grilled version. Can’t wait to see what comes out of our next shopping adventure.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 5:11 am

    This is just such a showstopper!! I can’t stop looking at it. The cucumber scales make the whole dish seem so light!

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    wow, this looks amazing… and just how my mum and her sister always served their salmon… quite 70’s I think but looks so beautiful and of course, tastes amazing xx

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    This is so elegant Sue, I can see this as being the absolute showstopper at a party table. Great idea!

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    This is SUCH a great idea! I love how it more or less takes the concept of a salmon salad and strips it down to the barest essentials. Cucumber, lemon, and beautiful salmon fillets: perfect.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Your salmon looks beautiful! It’s such an elegant presentation – and so delicious:)

  • Reply
    Ouida Lampert
    May 7, 2014 at 11:14 am

    A brief salt/rinse/dry application to the cucumber slices will render them more flexible, still a bit crunchy AND they turn almost transparent. When the salmon color peaks through the translucent “scales” it approaches magical.

    • Reply
      Ouida Lampert
      May 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

      Peeks, not peaks. Ugh.

      • Reply
        May 7, 2014 at 11:31 am

        Great tip! I tried both paper thin and slightly thicker slices, and went with the slightly thicker ones because I liked the more defined ‘scale’, and I liked seeing the green peel. But from what you’re saying, the transparent look must be beautiful, too!

        • Reply
          May 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

          I know some people coat the cucumber slices with water mixed with powdered gelatin, which apparently gives a sheen to the surface.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 9:37 am

    WOW! I had this preparation once in a VERY fancy brunch in Los Angeles, but the lady who hosted was unable to fry an egg. (not that there’s anything wrong with it, different folks, different strokes, right?)

    anyway, I shiver to imagine how much she paid for that platter, it looked stunning, and I’ve always wanted to know how to make it. Now I do!

    Thank you!

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