Gill asked for some ideas for a zhoozed up Salmon en croute for their Christmas lunch. The best celebratory s-e-c I’ve ever eaten was in in the Irkutsk School of Medicine at the end of an academic visit there in February 2002 in temperatures rarely rising above -35C. And that is very cold, I can assure you! It is a traditional dish offered to guests – salmon with chopped onion and chopped egg, capers, sometimes cooked rice, and herbs, all wrapped in golden pastry decorated with pastry fish scales, gills, fins, the lot.
A tip for a crispy bottom is first to put a heavy baking tray in the oven then heat the oven to 190C. More tips….. Make sure you have all your ingredients ready. Roll out the ready made puff pastry on non-stick baking parchment the same dimensions as the tray. Then you can simply slide it all onto the hot baking tray. The reason for pre heating the tray is to prevent the scourge of any en-croute dish – a soggy bottom.
Now. Ideas for zhoosing up the dish….
You could make a duxelles of shallot and mushrooms – frying finely chopped shallot, garlic and mushrooms in oil and butter and seasoning with salt (after cooking and ridding the mushrooms of most of their water) and pepper, a little shake of chilli flakes and chopped fresh dill. Then you can either sandwich the cold duxelles between two salmon fillets and enclose in pastry, or spread it along the top.
Or you could make a deeply flavoured rough pesto with chopped pine nuts, loads of fresh basil, grated parmesan and lemon zest all mixed with some olive oil to wet it slightly and finely chopped kale.
Or you could sweat down a big bag of spinach in a pan with a knob of butter and NO water. Let it get cold. Squeeze out more water then mix the spinach with fresh parsley and fresh thyme, spread on the salmon and stuff with halves of hard boiled egg sprinkled with the merest hint of paprika.
Or you could cook some rice, season it with salt afterwards, then run some pomegranate syrup through it add a handful of golden sultanas, chopped walnuts and salty capers. Pile it along the length of the salmon before you wrap it in pastry.
So what’s to go with it? Well you could just have a green salad but that would be a bit boring.
How about parmentier potatoes? Chops potatoes into 2.5cm squares – as many as you want. Throw them into a plastic carrier bag and add chopped garlic, black pepper and chopped rosemary. Don’t add salt at this stage. Add about 30ml olive oil. Tie a knot in the bag and you can prepare them and leave overnight if you wish. Preheat a heavy baking tray containing another 30ml olive oil and 25g butter. Get it really hot then throw in the potatoes and turn them till they are all coated. Put into the oven (190C) and roast for about 35 minutes, turning a couple of times.
Serve with something green – crispy kale, or savoy finished with almonds, or with slivers of raw courgette doused in a lemony dressing. Or watercress. And always with a garlicky aioli.
There you are Gill…. some ideas to play around with as you lounge on the sofa!