Pride is not necessarily a sin. You can be proud of that child making the honor roll. Or proud your college team had a winning season after six straight years of … Well, you understand.
The greatest pride that Suzen and I have is when we make dish and then just have to pause to look at it before digging in. When you create something that looks spectacular, that’s an achievement. And a little pat on the back is well deserved. You can pat your tummy later, after consumption.
This is a perfect summer main course. It calls for oven roasting, but you can easily shift to your barbecue if you desire. A late summer night’s meal of fresh salmon is a treat you can become addicted to.
This dish offers everything you could want: intense flavors, visual contrast, hot and cold elements, and — above all — one of those flavor combinations [salmon, sour cream, and cucumber] that seems to have heavenly ordination.
In the background of the picture, you can see that we served this with sautéed greens and rice. You can pair this salmon with salads and side dishes of your choice. The salmon, hearty and spicy, is going to dominate the meal. And that frosting of Cucumber-Sour Cream Sauce will offer an intriguing layer of additional flavor. Did I say frosting? Yes, because this dish is so pretty and so good it might as well be dessert.
Well, I am not trying to say here that if you make this dish you should not have dessert. I would never, never impose such a standard on anyone.
Certainly not on myself.
Although the sauce in the picture looks simple, it is not. Made with arugula and spinach leaves plus mustard, besides the sour cream and cucumber, the sauce has body and complexity that let it complement the salmon. The sauce does not compete with the salmon but it is not overwhelmed by the fish.
The salmon itself develops that pictured thin crust you see from a healthy coating of soy sauce, wine, and orange juice. The crust does snap at you but only pleasantly. And the sauce is there to sooth the whole experience.
After intense salmon, think of ice cream with rich dairy to coat your mouth and erase lingering flavors notes. I’ve tried this combination many times. It works. You can ask my wife.
If you need an ice cream recipe that is unsurpassed, look for tomorrow’s post.
Oven Roasted Salmon with Cucumber-Sour Cream Sauce
Yield: serves 6
For the Salmon:
- 6 six-ounce salmon fillets with the skin on
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Cucumber Sour Cream Sauce:
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups baby spinach leaves (packed)
- 1 ½ cups arugula leaves (packed)
- 1 shallot, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup sour cream
- 3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
- Chopped chives, scallions or herbs of your choice
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. [Or your barbecue grill!]
For the salmon, in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish place the wine, orange juice and soy sauce. With a paring knife, score the salmon skin by making an "X". Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place in the marinade flesh side down. Cover, turning occasionally and set aside.
For the sauce, place the spinach, arugula and shallot in the bowl of a food processor and finely chop. Add the sour cream and mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cayenne and process until blended. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cucumber, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Remove the salmon from the marinade shaking off any excess liquid. Transfer the salmon to the baking sheet skin side down, sprinkle salmon with salt. Roast salmon in the oven until fish is opaque in the center, about 10 to 12 minutes.
To serve, transfer salmon to serving plates, top with a generous dollop of cucumber-sour cream sauce and garnish with chopped chives or scallions or herb of your choice.
Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2003
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/100th second at ISO‑1600
You may have noticed food costs rising. I now use my cell phone to take pictures of what I am not going to have and my calculator to figure out how much my half-filled shopping cart is going to dent me for.
There are ways to absorb the cost spiral. Suzen and I love smoked salmon. She’s from Brooklyn and I’m from Oregon. Smoked salmon is one of the few things we have in common [although, I am going to say that in Brooklyn they never have alder smoked salmon].
You can find smoked salmon almost everywhere, and pay the price. Or, one quick trip to your gourmet store or some web shopping, and you’ll be doubly happy: you can make your own smoked salmon at half the price and pick the flavor you want [Suzen and I compromise and do not do alder but we do use apple wood and just a pinch of mesquite].
At the gourmet store, you want to look for a Cameron stovetop smoker. There’s a picture of one at the end of this post and you can, if you prefer, order one from Amazon for less than $50. The payback period will be quick. In a nutshell, you put woodchips in the metal Cameron box, your food on a rack, and then use a combination of burner and oven heat to turn raw salmon in delectable, moist, tender smoked salmon. You can start experimenting with salmon, but you’ll soon be smoking all kinds of protein.
Salmon takes about 20 minutes. That’s just the time you need to dash out for fresh bagels. Or you can serve smoked salmon as an entrée. And what you don’t eat today, goes into the food processor with sour cream and lemon juice the next day for salmon spread, for a dip or for sandwiches or to top off a biscuit. Bagels on Sunday, biscuits on Monday. That’s a Brooklyn-Oregon combination that has worked for 28 years. Lot of smoked salmon under the bridge.
The recipe here is from The Gentle Art of Preserving by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. The smoking chapter in Gentle Art is extensive and will have you appreciating your Cameron smoker every time.
Hot Smoked Salmon
Yield: up to what fits in the Cameron [a few pounds]
• Salmon fillets [any thickness, thin smokes quicker than thick]
• Sea salt
Sprinkle a thin layer of fine sea salt over the base of a lasagna dish or similar pan. Arrange the salmon fillets, skin-side down, on top of the salt. Sprinkle more salt over the surface of the fish, cover the dish with plastic wrap, and set aside to cure into fridge for approximately 1 hour.
Rinse the fillets briefly under water to remove most, but necessarily all, of the salt. Pat dry. Arrange on a wire rack in the fried or a cool room to dry for approximately 30 minutes so to form a pellicle.
What is a pellicle? It is a skin or coating of proteins on the surface of the meat that allows smoke to better adhere to the surface of the mat during the smoking process.
Select the wood of your choice and place in the Cameron smoker. Put the salmon on the rack, close the box, and follow the Cameron directions for cooking [all on the stovetop or a combination of stovetop and oven].
Cook for approximately 20 minutes. You can test for doneness by touch: the fish should be firm.
One note: the smoking process here generates a LOT of aroma. If you are sensitive to smells, then you’ll want your venting turned on high.
Sources: The Gentle Art of Preserving by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi and Wikipedia
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/50th second at ISO-500