The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.
This isn't a particularly challenging dish but it did provide me with an excuse to finally buy puff pastry. (Which also meant that I'd be able to make buljons pīrādziņi as a treat for my husband, so win-win all around.) I opted not to make the pastry because frankly, I'm leery of making puff pastry in my shabby, rundown little kitchen, because I just plain don't have the counter space to really make a good go of it. Maybe after I graduate and we move.
Normally, I try not to adapt the challenge recipes too much because, hey, it's a challenge! This time, however, it needed it as no (!!) spices were specified and marscapone cheese is extremely expensive. (I can make it from scratch but I forgot I needed to so I used my favorite goat cheese instead.)
So, I added some fresh basil from my happy basil plant in the corner, some salt and pepper (always essential) and tasted the sauce. Hmmm. Quite lacking, I thought, so I threw a bit of garlic, crushed chile pepper, thyme and lemon juice in. Much better.
Finding reasonable salmon here made me long to be back in Seattle, where the salmon runs are heralded by banners and everyone knows the name of at least five different species (Coho, Steelhead, Sockeye, King, and Copper River are my five). I could have acquired a whole Coho on ice from Central Market, had it filleted by the nice fishmonger and had a beautiful side of salmon for dinner and leftovers for salmon stock later.
Instead, I finally found two theoretically not-farmed salmon portions on styrofoam at Winco which looked acceptable. I had to skin it myself, though this time it went quite quickly and easily. Ah well, maybe next year I can snag a job in Seattle and move us back there.
Ahem. Anyway, enough with the daydreaming and on to the challenge! I wrapped each portion of salmon individually, cutting the pastry sheet in half. They fit onto my small quarter-sheet pan, which was rather nice.
At least there was enough sauce to go around, which I often find to be a problem with sauce recipes. Of course, I did wind up adding a lot more cheese to get to the consistency described than was called for, so that helped.
This meal definitely deserves a glass of white wine, or, if you're me, a glass of bubbly. (I love champagne and believe that it should be reserved for those special occasions like eating, getting home from work, finishing a paper or reading a good book.)
Overall, this dish came out very well. The pastry-wrapped fish is not really to my taste, however, so I wouldn't opt to make this again. I would much prefer a simple broiled salmon with butter and lemon to this. But, if it appeals to you, I can vouch that it is quite good.
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Adapted from Good Food Online for December 2009 Daring Cooks Challenge
- 80 g (~3 ounces) soft kefir or goat cheese
- 210 g (~8 ounces) ricotta
- 120 g (~4 ounces) mixed greens (arugula, spinach, etc.)
- 10 g fresh basil
- 1 tsp crushed red chile flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 - 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 sheet thawed puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms)
- 1 pound salmon fillet, skin removed
- 1 egg
- salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Whiz kefir cheese, ricotta, spices, garlic, basil and mixed greens along with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper into a creamy green sauce.
Roll out puff pastry and place on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Brush some of the sauce over the area where the salmon will rest, then lay the salmon on top. If there's a thin tail-end, tuck it under. Spoon a goodly portion of the sauce onto the salmon. Fold the pastry over into a neat parcel, trimming the edges neatly.
Make three cuts to allow steam to escape. Beat the egg, adding a little water, to produce an egg glaze. Brush the pastry well with the glaze.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it's golden brown and delicious. To test whether the salmon is fully cooked (since the flake test cannot be used), carefully insert the tip of a paring knife through one of the vents into the salmon and wait 3 seconds. Press the flat of the blade against your wrist (carefully, please), if it's hot, it's cooked.
Serve with the remaining sauce.