Asti Spumante-Poached Salmon with Braised Fennel

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Seasons Greetings from my kitchen to yours!  I want to share with you an easy-to-prepare, celebratory dish to help ring in the holidays and another New Year.  It’s an Asti Spumante Poached Salmon. Sound tasty?  You bet it is.  Plus the non-meat eaters in your life will be happy, too.  Sauces made from sparkling wine that are paired with fish are, often, cream- and/or butter-based.  For this recipe, I omit cream and use a little butter.  I do like the addition of cream in certain fish sauces; I purposely left out cream in this dish to keep it as an option for those looking for something lighter to add to their holiday table.  But by all means, if you are not too concerned about a lighter version, then add the cream, cook on and enjoy.

The holidays offer many great opportunities to cook with sparkling wine. So, why not add a little merriment and cheer to your holiday meals?  Many people simply get happy and find it intriguing when they learn that their meal was cooked with a little bit of “bubbly”.  It helps ring in the fun and holiday spirit of it all.  And, that’s what a dish like this is all about.

I’m a little partial to Asti Spumante because I studied at the Italian Culinary Institute located in the town of Costigliole d’Asti, the region where Asti Spumante is made. 

Comune Di Costigliole D'Asti

Comune Di Costigliole D’Asti

This poached salmon dish is one of my go-to recipes for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve parties.  It is usually a big hit, and it’s also a real time-saver, too.  Once you have all the ingredients in your baking dish, you simply cover and place it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Yep, that’s it!  A no-stress Asti Spumante salmon dish that’s not only delicious, but also perfect for this magical mistletoe time of year.  Enjoy! 

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon with Braised Fennel

(serves 5-6)


  • 2.5 lbs salmon, de-boned and skin removed
  • 1 1/2 cups, Asti Spumante
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 2 large bulbs of fennel, stems removed, save some fronds for garnish
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus 2 tablespoons freshly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 4 strips of orange zest, pith removed and finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 7 star anise
  • pink and green peppercorns (optional, but they add a festive touch!)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • An ovenproof serving (or attractive baking) dish that can be brought to the table


For the salmon:

  • Cut and portion the salmon. Or, simply buy them already cut. 
  • Keep salmon wrapped and refrigerated until ready to use. 

For the fennel:

  • Cut the stems from the top of the bulbs of fennel. Save some of the fronds and quickly rinse them under cold running water. Pat dry, and quickly chop them.  Reserve for later use.
  • Wash off the bulbs of fennel.  Dry the bulbs well and cut off any dark or bruised areas.
  • Now, cut the root end and pull the fennel sections apart.
  • If the fennel is small you can leave the segments whole.  The larger strips should be (julienne) cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.
  • Cut the onion the same way and mix them both together.

To cook the fennel and make the sauce:

  • Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan.
  • Then, add the fennel and onion.

Tip: Don’t overcrowd the pan. You may need to do this in two or more steps.

Cooking the fennel.

Cooking the fennel.

  • Sauté the ingredients (about 5 minutes) until the fennel and onions begins to soften.
  • Now add the orange juice, 1 tablespoon of orange zest, 2 star anise, a teaspoon each of the pink and green peppercorns, a teaspoon of the chopped fennel fronds, and two pinches of salt.
  • Mix well and cook covered for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
  • Remove the cover and add the Asti Spumante, butter, honey and a few more pink and green peppercorns.
  • Carefully mix through all the ingredients and cook over a medium high heat (stir frequently to prevent sticking) for an additional 5 minutes. Or, until the liquid has slightly reduced and thickened a little.
  • If using cream see the tip below.

Tip: Remove the fennel from the pan with a slotted spoon, and add it to the bottom of your baking dish to form a nice even layer. Now, increase the heat on the braising liquid and reduce by 1/4.  Then add the heavy cream and reduce (5 minutes over a medium flame) until  slightly thickened.  The sauce will thicken some more as it bakes in the oven with the salmon.

Tip: Whisk the sauce well from time to time to prevent sticking.  Strain the sauce and continue as per recipe. 

Cooking the salmon:

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon (ready to bake)

  • Preheat oven to 350℉
  • Once the Asti Spumante sauce has reduced remove it from the heat.
  • Carefully spoon out the fennel and onion mixture into your baking dish.
  • Season the salmon and place them top of the bed of fennel.
  • Pour the sauce over the salmon and top each with a star anise.
  • Cover the baking tray with tinfoil and bake in your oven for 12-15 minutes.
  • The salmon should be cooked all the way through.
  • Place the tray of salmon on your stove top to rest a few minutes before serving.
  • Add a few sprigs of thyme to the dish. Sprinkle some pink and green peppercorns on top of the salmon along with any more reserved chopped fennel fronds.

Now place your Asti Spumante Poached Salmon in its baking tray right on your holiday table and enjoy.

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Or, if you prefer to plate the salmon (restaurant style) for your guests, here is the way I plated it for a recent dinner party.

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon

Asti Spumante Poached Salmon (plated version)

Happy Holidays!