Goodness, there's been some major cookage in South Williamsburg lately. Ann's been churning out baked items like a crazed baked-item-churning thing: mince pies, cookies, mini pies... she's been like a woman possessed, and as a result the apartment is in desperate need of pie exorcism. To that end Sophie and I were ordered to fill a couple of rucksacks and haul them to school/office on Monday. It was either that or give the neighbourhood wildlife an early festive treat, and that would never do. So last Sunday I decided it was high time I reclaimed the kitchen for a few hours so that I could knock up a couple of old favourites. One was a dessert recipe of my mothers (which will feature in the next "Bad Teeth and Lousy Food" post), the other was Salmon en Croute.
This is a dish which appeals to me because it is easier than it looks, can be prepared well ahead of cooking and, above all, is damned tasty. If you have a childish sense of humour like me you can also have fun making the thing look comical and giving your guests a laugh before they take a bite and start drooling. I've served this with new potatoes and green beans, but it also goes well with salad, mixed grains... anything that gives a lighter balance to the rather rich pastry and succulent salmon. Here's what you do.
Salmon en Croute
Serves 6 - 8
2 skinned tail fillets of salmon, about 1lb each or slightly under
A large bunch/bag of watercress
I tsp grated lemon rind
1 beaten egg
1 oz pine nuts
2 oz softened butter
1.5 lb puff pastry
Cherry tomatoes and watercress for garnish
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Wipe and season the fillets. Pick the big stalks off the watercress (tedious, but I think it's worth it) and blanch. Drain well. Lightly grill (broil) the pine nuts (this doesn't take long - just until they're very, very slightly browned.) Chop the watercress and mix with the pine nuts, butter, rind and a little salt and pepper until you have a lovely buttery green paste.
Roll out two pieces of pastry so that each is at least a good couple of inches bigger than your fillets all around. Place one fillet skinned side down on one of the pieces of pastry (If one fillet is slightly larger than the other, make it that one.) Evenly spread the stuffing over the top of the fillet and lay the other one on top, skinned side up.
Brush the pastry surrounding the fish with beaten egg, lay your second piece of pastry over the top and firmly press it down around the fish so that it sticks to the eggy bit. Now trim off the excess pastry, roll it out again and you can use it to get 'creative'. Add fins, eyes, smiley face..., use the end of a spoon to press "scales" into the beastie's back and sides. Go nuts. You can be clever and try to make the thing look realistic if you're that way inclined, but it's much simpler and much more fun to be silly, I think. Like this!
He could do with a dorsal fin and maybe a visit to the radiation detox unit, but I think he's cute, so there. Put your creation onto a lightly greased baking tray, brush the whole thing with beaten egg then bake for 35 - 40 minutes. When he comes out he'll look crisp, golden and luscious. And possibly googly-eyed, if you're lucky.
As you can see, I surrounded him with watercress and cherry toms. It's nice to make a simple white fish sauce to serve on the side, and hollandaise works very well too. If all has gone as it should you'll find the salmon will be perfectly cooked and the filling moist and tasty. This one turned out pretty well in spite of our much-complained-about dodgy oven. I called him Sammy.