Monday, 21 January 2013

Salmon en Croute

I had salmon en croute once at someone's house and it was absolutely disgusting.

The cook had failed to use any salt, because they are the sort of person who thinks that any salt kills you stone dead within weeks. My view is that you can either use a decent amount of salt in your cooking and run the extremely tiny risk of it doing you some damage, or you can use no salt and die of a) starvation b) boredom. And get some mean leg cramps in the night.

But there's no reason why salmon en croute shouldn't be a delicious thing. It's wrapped in pastry!! I mentally file this kind of thing under my "finishing school" category of cooking. Quiches and souffles are also filed under this category. Baked bone marrow and suet puddings are filed under "New British", curries and stir-fries go under "student", lemon meringue pie, soup, and devilled kidneys go under "yuk" and so on.

I consulted the internet for a good way to do this and came across something by Gordon Ramsay. I'm normally shy of things by Gordon Ramsay or Gary Rhodes or anyone who has spent more of their waking hours in a kitchen than they have outside; they make all sorts of insane assumptions about the domestic cook, like that they will have a fish kettle, or a sugar thermometer, or that they are cooking for 80 people.

But this looked really quite straightforward. And it was! And it was also delicious - I really recommend it. It looks fantastically fiddly and impressive but it was really very easy. It also has the tremendous advantage that you can do all of it in advance and then just shove it in the oven 1/2 an hour before you want to eat.

It also doesn't create a lot of mess and it doesn't stink your house out while cooking. So it's no wonder really that it was served at every dinner party during the 70s and 80s country-wide. So out, it's got to come back in soon. I say bring it back now.

Roughly Gordon Ramsay's Salmon en Croute
Serves 4 (with something on the side)

2 salmon fillets - if you can get the salmon from a fish counter or fishmonger who can take the skin off, otherwise you are going to have to do it yourself and you will most likely make a huge buggery mess of it. Trust me, I have a shimmering range of the most expensive fish-skinning knives available for purchase legally and I can't do it nicely

Small bunch of dill
1 tsp-ish chopped lemon zest
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard, yes I know this sounds weird but it works
about 40g butter at room temperature (this is important so just be patient with it)
salt and pepper
1 packet all-butter puff pastry from jus-roll (not just the puff, in the green packet, but the all-butter puff, in the gold packet)
*My sister has pointed out to me that in Waitrose, if there is no all-butter puff available in the chiller cabinet, Waitrose have their own all-butter puff available frozen. Thank you Harriet for this most useful tip.*
1 egg, beaten, in a small bowl

Preheat the oven to 200C

1 Make a herb butter by smooshing together about 2 tbsps of chopped dill with a large pinch of salt, about 7 twists of the pepper grinder and the butter.

2 Dry the salmon fillets well with kitchen paper to help the butter stick and then paste one upturned curvy fillet side with the herb butter and the other upturned curvy fillet side with the mustard. Then fit these fillets together to make a reasonably even shape - like a yin yang sign. Put this to one side.

3 Roll out your pastry to a thickness of a £1 coin. This is thinner than you think it is, so maybe just have a quick check. Put the salmon in the middle of the pastry. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and then fold the sides up over the salmon like you're wrapping a present (have flashback here to most awful Christmas present received). Don't overlap the two long ends of pastry too much otherwise you'll have a great ridge of pastry down the middle of the salmon, which will not look chic.

4 Trim the sides and ends as much as you need to and then tuck the ends in under the salmon. Roll your parcel over so the seam is underneath and place on a greased or non-stick baking tray. Mark three slits diagnoally across the back of the bundle to let steam escape.

5 Brush the whole thing over with more beaten egg and then sprinkle with sea salt and more pepper for good measure.

6 Bake in the middle of your oven for 35 mins. The recipe said 20-25 mins but it was still cool in the centre after that time and after 35 mins it wasn't overcooked or burnt - and I've got a mega mental fan oven that razzes the living shit out of everything - so you ought to be okay.

And that's it! When it comes out, slice on the diagonal and serve with something nice. A salad maybe, if that's not the most boring thing I've ever said.

I would say here that obviously this is nice because it's wrapped in pastry - how could it not be? But I know for a fact that pastry can only do so much.


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