Whole Salmon Posh Buffet Centrepiece

Whole Salmon Posh Buffet Centrepiece

 (Dishwasher version):

Prep:           10 mins.

Cooking:      1 dishwasher cycle….

Course:        Buffet.  Posh one.

Serves:        8 – 12

Rating:         4:  Tricky, but worth a punt.

Cooking a whole salmon as a buffet centrepiece can be quite a problem as they are often too big (too long) for any container that you have in the kitchen.  You would normally have no hope without using a big fish kettle.   You would either have to cut the fish in half, chop off the head & tail or curl it round… none of which are ideal when you want to present the whole fish flat on a platter for a posh buffet.

Solution:  Use the dishwasher.


  • Kitchen foil, double width. Either buy the double width turkey foil (expensive, even when it’s available around Christmas) or lay two or more pieces side-by-side, dull side uppermost, and make a triple-folded seam between them to produce a multi-width piece.  Amazing what technology can do these days, eh?
  • Fresh Dill is by far the best…. Go on, don’t be a cheapskate like me, be generous….
  • Parsley, preferably flat leaved – fresh – see Dill, above
  • Lemons – a couple will do
  • Olive – or half of one! A pimento stuffed one, halved, so that you can see the red in the middle of the green – it’s to replace the eye that you’ll scoop out with a teaspoon….. too much info?  Read on.
  • Salad leaves
  • Tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of other salady bits that you know all about and I’m too lazy to list
  • Butter, for inside of the parcel and to finish off the sauce
  • Platter on which it will be presented (needs to be long enough!)


  • Lay the whole gutted and cleaned fish, complete with all fins, head, tail, etc onto the foil that you have just made.
  • Lay lots of fresh dill and parsley together with a few teaspoons of water into the cavity of Sammy the salmon. Season it well and put a few blobs of butter into the cavity and also on the upper skin side of the fish. 
  • Cut slices from the lemon and lay that on top of the skin as well as inside the cavity.
  • Squeeze as much lemon juice (from the lemon you have left) into the cavity.
  • Seal up the foil really well, triple folding the seams ensuring that there are no leaks either into or out of the parcel (no, you can’t use tape).  Then wrap it up in another layer of foil to ensure that no seepage occurs at all, neither in nor out.
  • Be careful not to pierce the foil as you lay it into the bottom tray of the dishwasher – fold the plate rack down first, if it can be done. 
  • Do not wash any dishes in the dishwasher this time – turn off/down the rinse-aid if you can (but you’ll need to remember to turn it back on again afterwards)….. and certainly don’t put in any detergent….
  • Set the dishwasher for the longest, hottest wash cycle (i.e. not a short one) and go have a cup of tea with a neighbour (or nip down the pub – probably preferable) whilst Delilah-the-delectable-dishwasher cooks Sammy-the-succulent-salmon to a turn for you.
  • When you stagger back from the pub, carefully take the package out of the dishwasher, being careful not to nick the foil on the prongs of the tray, as there will now be lots of hot fishy juice in the bottom of the foil parcel –a commodity that you are going to put to very good use later on.
  • Carefully and gently open up the parcel on a tray on a work surface (ensuring the juices don’t escape and run down your legs) and carefully lift out our lovely Sammy, probably on a long spatula or wooden spoon handle for support, ensuring that it stays in one piece. Don’t drop it.  DON’T DROP IT!
  • Tip it so that any juice runs into the foil or tray, then lay it gently onto the centre of the oval stainless steel or silver (bloody show-off!) platter, china plate or whatever you intend to present it upon.  Retain the juices in a bowl, cup or container for later.
  • So far, so good.
  • With a normal table knife, gently scrape away the skin all the way from the back of the gill opening to the root of the tail, exposing all of that one side, being careful not to damage the flesh. 
    • Give the skin to your dog or cat – they love being involved in this sort of recycling. They like to help.
  • If you are not squeamish (or even if you are), scoop the now opaque eye out of its socket with the handle of a teaspoon and replace it with the cut-off end of a pimento-stuffed olive.  If you are REALLY squeamish (coward), lay a sliver of pimento-stuffed olive on top of the eye – but it will not look so good. (Sammy should have gone to SpecSavers)
  • Lay lots of small assorted salad leaves all around the fish, together with peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted pine-nuts, cashews and pecans (see ‘toasting your nuts’ in Tricks’n’Tips), tucking the leaves under a bit to make it look nice. (You don’t lay the fish onto the leaves initially because the skin still needs to be removed – and it might mess up the salad.)
  • Warm up the fishy juices (that are left in the foil and tray) in a saucepan with a little more butter and whisk as much as you possible can to add a little air, making it a little thicker, using a balloon whisk. Pour it over the exposed flesh of the fish just before being served and then sprinkle on the chopped fresh parsley.
  • Serve the salmon, still warm if possible, onto the plates of your guests in large chunks, removing the flesh from the bones by pulling the flesh down from the spine to the underside of the fish, with two forks, sliding it off the bones.     And dead impressive!
  • Don’t let ‘em in on the dishwasher secret till they’ve finished, and complemented you on y’cooking…..

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