Monday, December 14, 2009

The Daring Kitchen (December 2009)...Salmon en croute

It's that time again: time for another cooking challenge. I've missed the last couple of challenges. One was an asian dish with fish sauce in it, which just didn't sound appetizing (I don't do fish sauce or clam juice since a bad recipe choice years ago). The next month the challenge was sushi, which is another thing that I don't do. Even the vegetarian version is out, as seaweed and rice doesn't sound appetizing to me!

But this month was something I never would have thought of making otherwise: Salmon en croute, or Salmon in pastry. I love salmon, but I have never used pastry before, outside of frozen pie shells from the store.

I had a friend come over to work on this cooking challenge with me. Pam doesn't know anything about cooking, and I thought that it would be good for her to see what goes into something like this, and that she really doesn't have to be intimidated by the whole process. Now the one trick was that Pam doesn't like seafood, and salmon is such a strong-tasting fish that I knew that she may not like the dish. But the was willing to give it a try.

I decided that I was not going to make my own pastry. I was pressed for time, and pastry is something I've never done before (and right now I don't even know where my rolling pin is!) So we started with frozen puff pastry.

My mistake was putting the pastry on wax paper to thaw. I probably should have put it on a floured surface to thaw. So after it did thaw, I found it was sticking to the wax paper. So it took a bit of work to remove it.

While the pastry was thawing, I julienned a leek and a carrot and sauteed it up in a pan with a tablespoon of butter. Then set it aside to cool.

Then I tossed about 4 ounces of cream cheese in the food processor, along with a small bunch of watercress and a handful of baby spinach, along with a squirt of lemon juice and a little fresh dill. (I meant to include some garlic powder and salt and pepper, but totally forgot!) I processed this mixture until it was a smooth puree.

While I was doing this, I had my friend grease a cookie sheet. Then we tackled the pastry. First I found that I couldn't find my rolling pin. So I used my fingers to spread the pastry out a little more. Then cut the square into four.

Then I spooned some of the leek/carrot mixture on two pastry squares, and placed a pat of butter on top. I topped this with a salmon fillet, and then spread each salmon fillet with the cream cheese puree.
Then we covered each salmon piece with the other pastry square and crimped the edges to seal them. I did one, and I had Pam do the other. We placed the salmon packets on a cookie sheet, and then I used an egg wash (a beaten egg and a little milk) to brush the seams. I covered the cookie sheet with plastic wrap and stuck the cookie sheet with salmon in the frig for about 20 mins to firm up a little.

Meanwhile I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

(While this was going on, I got the wild rice cooking on the stove, and I had Pam put the green beans that I had her snap earlier into a foil pan. Then I had her drizzle a little olive oil over them, and I tossed in a clove or so of minced garlic and sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and tossed the whole of it to coat.)

After 20 minutes in the frig, I pulled the salmon out and brushed the packets with the egg wash. Then tossed the salmon and green beans in the oven to bake.

While the salmon was cooking, I tossed a 1/2 cup of white wine in a pan and reduced it by half. Then mixed in a 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Then I added some salt and pepper, but unfortunately I wasn't paying attention and I opened the wrong side of the pepper and dumped a bunch of it in the sauce. I tossed in a little dill, but pretty much gave up on the wine sauce. So I didn't take any pictures of it, and I never even tried it. Pam said it was pretty good though!

The salmon was cooked for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. It came out perfectly cooked and moist.
And may I just say: Yum! Very good! Of course, as could be expected, Pam did not like the salmon. I was pretty sure that it was going to be too strong-flavored for her. But she was a good sport and tried it, and she loved the rice and green beans! And then we finished off our meal with peppermint tea and Key Lime Pie!

This is definitely something that I would do again! I loved the contrast of the pastry to the salmon and the leeks. The original recipe didn't call for carrots, leeks, butter or dill, but I saw a lot of people using dill and thought it would be a good complement to the salmon, and I LOVE leeks and thought that the carrot would add a little something more. Very nice!

Thanks so much to Simone for this month's cooking challenge! I loved it!


Wic said...

amazing step by step pictures and I love that you want to help your friend.

Junglefrog said...

Your salmon looks perfect despite the missing wine sauce, lol... That would so be something that could happen to me too...:) Great idea of adding the carrots and the leeks to the mix. Well done!

Rochelle said...

Great idea to show your friend how to cook using a seemingly complicated yet not really recipe even if she didn't like the salmon, but now she knows how to make it and knows she can do it with other ingredients :)

Anonymous said...

Love that you added extra veggies!

Anonymous said...

Perfect cooking class, hands on and challenge met! Your salmon en croute turned out lovely, and even though you overdid the pepper in the wine sauce, think 'au poivre' lol At least Pam liked it! Well done all around!